Green Cards

Adjustment of Status

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) permits the change of an individual’s immigration status while in the United States from nonimmigrant or parolee (temporary) to immigrant (permanent) if the individual was inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States and is able to meet all required qualifications for a green card (permanent residence) in a particular category. The common term for a change to permanent status is “adjustment of status.”

The INA provides an individual two primary paths to permanent resident status. Adjustment of status is the process by which an eligible individual already in the United States can get permanent resident status (a green card) without having to return to their home country to complete visa processing.

Consular processing is an alternate process for an individual outside the United States (or who is in the United States but is ineligible to adjust status) to obtain a visa abroad and enter the United States as a permanent resident) This pathway is referred to as “consular processing”

Steps for Adjustment of Status

1. Determine Your Basis to Immigrate
The first step in the adjustment of status process is to determine if you fit into a specific immigrant category. Most immigrants become eligible for a green card (permanent residence) through a petition filed on your behalf by a family member or employer.  Others become permanent residents through first obtaining refugee or asylum status, or through a number of other special provisions.

2. File the Immigrant Petition
When you know what category you believe best fits your situation, in most cases, you will need to have an immigrant petition filed on your behalf.

Family Based
Family based categories require that a U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for you.

Employment Based
Employment based categories most often require the intending U.S. employer to file a Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, for you.  Entrepreneurs who intend to invest significant amounts of capital into a business venture in the United States may file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur” on their own behalf.

Special Classes of Immigrants
In some cases, certain immigrants may file a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), and Special Immigrant, or have one filed on their behalf.

Depending on the category you wish to adjust under, you may be eligible to have the petition filed at the same time that you file your Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This is called “concurrent filing.” Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen may be able to file concurrently.  Also, other certain classes of individuals who have a visa immediately available may be able to file concurrently.  Most categories, however, require that you first establish your eligibility for the immigrant category by having an approved petition before you are allowed to file Form I-485, for these categories you will not be able to file concurrently.

3. Check Visa Availability
You may not file your Form I-485 until a visa is available in your category.  If an immigrant visa is currently available to you, you may be able to apply for permanent residence status on Form I-485.

4. File Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residency or Adjust Status
Regardless of whether a petition must be filed and approved prior to your filing Form I-485 or whether it may be filed concurrently, you will need to apply for permanent residence on Form I-485 at the appropriate time.

5. Go to your Application Support Center appointment (fingerprints)
After you file your application, you will be notified to appear at an Application Support Center for biometrics collection, which usually involves having your picture and signature taken and being fingerprinted.  This information will be used to conduct your required security checks and for eventual creation of a green card, employment authorization (work permit) or advance parole document.

6. Go to your interview (if applicable)
You may be notified of the date, time, and location for an interview at a USCIS office to answer questions under oath or affirmation regarding your application. You must attend all interviews when you receive a notice.

When you come to your interview, you (and the family member that filed the Form I-130 petition on your behalf, if applicable) must bring originals of all documentation submitted with this application including passports, official travel documents, and Form I-94 regardless if they are expired.

Not all applications require an interview. USCIS officials will review your case to determine if it meets one of the exceptions.

7. Get you final decision in the mail
After all paperwork has been received, interviews conducted (if necessary), security checks completed, and other eligibility requirements reviewed, your case will be ready for a decision by USCIS.  In all cases, you will be notified of the decision in writing.

The granting of permanent residency is generally recorded as the date that you became a permanent resident.  Refugees and certain humanitarian parolees (e.g. Cuban, Lautenberg) will have their date of adjustment of status recorded as that of their entry into the United States as a refugee. Asylees, whether the principal filer or his/her derivatives, will have their date of adjustment recorded as 1 year prior to the date of being granted permanent residence.

Check My Status

If you have immigration-related questions, you may call the USCIS National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283. You should be prepared to provide the USCIS representative with specific information about your application, such as your receipt number, Alien Registration Number, name, and date of birth. Or, you may check the status of your application online at “My Case Status” (see the link to the right).

Please remember that an application receipt number may not be available through “My Case Status” for 72 hours.

Green Cards Through Family Members

You may be eligible to get a Green Card as:

To promote family unity, immigration law allows U.S. citizens to petition for certain qualified relatives to come and live permanently in the United States. Eligible immediate relatives include the U.S. citizen’s:

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried child under the age of 21
  • Parent (if the U.S. citizen is over the age of 21)

Immediate relatives have special immigration priority and do not have to wait in line for a visa number to become available for them to immigrate because there are an unlimited number of visas for their particular categories.

Green Card for a Family Member of a U.S. Citizen

U.S. citizens who want their relatives to immigrate to the United States can file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for their spouse, children and if the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old, their parents and brothers or sisters.

“Immediate relatives” of a U.S. citizen, defined as one’s spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents, always have a visa number immediately available and are discussed in the “Green Card for an Immediate Relative of a U.S. Citizen” link to the left.

If your relationship does not qualify you as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, then you may be in what is called a “family preference category.”  Eligible relatives include:

  • Unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21
  • Married child(ren) of any age
  • Brothers and sisters (if the U.S. citizen petitioner is over the age of 21)

Congress has limited the number of relatives who may immigrate under these categories each year so there is usually a waiting period before an immigrant visa number becomes available.

Get a Green Card While Inside the United States

Our Tampa Green Card Attorneys may be able to help you right now! If you are currently in the United States and are one of the specified categories of relatives of a U.S. citizen in a preference category, you may be able to become a permanent resident in two steps.

  • Step One – Your U.S. citizen family member (sponsor) must file the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for you and it must be approved. You must wait for your priority date in your immigrant visa category to become current. Your priority date is the date when the Form I-130 is properly filed (with correct fee and signature) on your behalf by your U.S. citizen relative. Step Two – Once the priority date in your visa category is current, you may file for Adjustment of Status with Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.  Adjustment of Status is the process you go through to become a Permanent Resident or to get your Green Card. Our Tampa Green Card Attorneys can begin to help you get your green card today. Just give us a call at (813) 226-2144 now!

Get a Green Card While Outside the United States

If you are currently outside the United States and are one of the specified categories of relatives of a U.S. citizen in a preference category, you can become a permanent resident through consular processing. Consular processing is when USCIS works with the U.S. Department of State to issue a visa on an approved Form I-130 petition when a visa is available. In this process the Department of State will issue you a visa. If approved, you may then travel on the visa and will officially become a permanent resident when admitted at a U.S. port of entry.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Getting Married. If you are the unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen and you get married prior to becoming a permanent resident, then you no longer qualify as an “Unmarried Son or Daughter of a U.S. Citizen” and will convert to the category of “Married Son or Daughter of a U.S. Citizen.” This change in categories may result in a significant delay in your immigrant visa becoming available.

Green Card for a Family Member of a Permanent Resident

Our Tampa Green Card Attorneys can help you right now. To promote family unity, immigration law allows permanent residents of the United States (green card holders) to petition for certain eligible relatives to come and live permanently in the United States.  A permanent resident may petition for his/her spouse and unmarried child(ren) of any age to immigrate to the United States. Congress has limited the number of relatives who may immigrate under these categories each year so there is generally a waiting period before an immigrant visa number becomes available. If your family relationship qualifies you as an eligible relative of a U.S. permanent resident, then you are in what is called a “family preference category.”

Get a Green Card While Inside the United States

If you are currently in the United States and are one of the specified categories of relatives of a permanent resident, you may be able to become a permanent resident in two steps.

  • Step One – Your permanent resident relative must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for you and it must be approved. You must wait for your priority date in your immigrant visa category to become current.  Your priority date is the date when the Form I-130 is properly filed on your behalf by your U.S. permanent resident relative.
  • Step Two – Once the priority date in your visa category is current, you may file for adjustment of status with Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Adjustment of status is the process you go through to become a permanent resident.

Get a Green Card While Outside the United States

If you are currently outside the United States and are one of the specified eligible categories of relatives of a permanent resident, you can become a permanent resident through consular processing. Consular processing is when we work with the U.S. Department of State to issue a visa on an approved Form I-130 petition when a visa is available. In this process, the Department of State will issue you a visa. If approved, you may then travel on the visa and will officially become a permanent resident when admitted at a U.S. port of entry.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Turning 21 years of age. If you are an unmarried child of a permanent resident, turning 21 years of age may delay the process of becoming a permanent resident or obtaining an immigrant visa.  You will no longer qualify as an “Unmarried Child of a Lawful Permanent Resident” and will convert to the category of an “Unmarried Son or Daughter of a Lawful Permanent Resident. This change in categories may result in a significant delay in your immigrant visa becoming available.
  • The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA). In certain cases, the CSPA may allow you to retain the classification of “child” even if you have reached age 21.
  • Getting Married. If you are the unmarried son or daughter of a permanent resident, and you get married prior to becoming a permanent resident, you no longer qualify for permanent residence through your permanent resident family member. There is no visa category for a married child of a permanent resident. Note: You must notify USCIS of any change in your marital status after Form I-130 has been filed for you and prior to becoming a permanent resident or obtaining an immigrant visa.
  • Permanent Resident Relative Becomes a U.S. citizen.  If the permanent resident relative that petitioned for you becomes a U.S. Citizen, your preference category would change and a visa may be available sooner.  This is because you would now be getting a green card as a relative of a U.S. citizen.

Green Card Lawyers In Tampa, Florida

Our immigration attorneys have been helping families just like yours get their green cards since 1997. If you have any questions or wonder if you are eligible for a green card, call now for a consultation with one of our experienced Tampa green card lawyers today at 813-226-2144.

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Tampa, Florida 33602

United States (US)

Phone: 813-226-2144
Fax: 813-226-2145

Tampa Immigration Lawyers

The Tampa green card lawyers at Neil F. Lewis, P.A. have helped thousands of clients achieve the American Dream. Our immigration attorneys specialize in DACA, deportation defense, citizenship, appeals, asylum, green cards, and visas. 

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