Adjustment of status is a crucial step for individuals seeking to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the United States. If you’re going through this process, you’re probably eager to know how long it will take before you receive your green card. While it’s natural to want a definite answer, the timeline for adjustment of status can vary based on several factors. In this article, we’ll explore the process and shed light on the average processing times. So, let’s dive in and find out what to expect!
Adjustment of status refers to the procedure that allows certain non-U.S. citizens to apply for lawful permanent resident status, also known as a green card, while they are physically present in the United States. It is an important step in the immigration journey, as it provides an opportunity for eligible individuals to obtain long-term residency and work authorization.
2. What is Adjustment of Status?
Adjustment of status is the process through which an individual changes their immigration status from a temporary nonimmigrant visa holder to a permanent resident. This can be done if the individual meets the eligibility requirements outlined by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
3. Eligibility Criteria for Adjustment of Status
To be eligible for adjustment of status, you must meet certain criteria. These criteria may vary depending on the category you fall under, such as family-based or employment-based. Generally, you must:
- Have a valid basis for applying for adjustment of status
- Be physically present in the United States at the time of filing
- Have entered the United States legally
- Maintain lawful nonimmigrant status
- Meet any specific requirements for the category you are applying under
4. The Importance of Understanding the Timeline
Understanding the timeline for the adjustment of status process is crucial for planning and managing expectations. While USCIS provides general estimates, it’s important to remember that processing times can vary significantly depending on various factors. Being aware of these factors can help you navigate the process more effectively.
5. Factors Affecting the Processing Time
Several factors can influence the processing time for adjustment of status. It’s essential to consider these factors to have a better understanding of why the processing time may differ from case to case. Let’s take a look at some of these factors:
5.1. USCIS Workload
The workload at USCIS can affect the processing time for all immigration applications, including adjustment of status. High volumes of applications can lead to delays, especially if the agency is experiencing a backlog or resource constraints.
5.2. Completeness and Accuracy of Application
Submitting a complete and accurate application is crucial for a smooth processing experience. Incomplete or incorrect applications may lead to requests for evidence (RFE) or even denials, which can further prolong the processing time.
5.3. Security Checks and Background Investigations
As part of the adjustment of status process, USCIS conducts security checks and background investigations on applicants. These checks are necessary to ensure national security and public safety. Depending on the circumstances, these checks may take varying amounts of time.
5.4. Request for Evidence (RFE)
In some cases, USCIS may issue a request for evidence (RFE) to request additional documentation or information to complete the application review. It is important to respond to an RFE promptly and provide the requested information to avoid further delays.
6. General Timeline for Adjustment of Status
While the processing time can vary, there are general steps involved in the adjustment of status process. Let’s take a closer look at each step:
6.1. Filing Form I-485
The first step in the adjustment of status process is filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This form serves as your official application and includes relevant information about your background, eligibility, and supporting documentation.
6.2. Biometrics Appointment
After filing Form I-485, you will receive a notice for a biometrics appointment. At this appointment, your fingerprints, photograph, and signature will be collected for background checks and identity verification purposes.
In many cases, applicants are required to attend an interview as part of the adjustment of status process. The interview allows USCIS to verify the information provided in the application and assess the applicant’s eligibility for permanent residency.
6.4. Decision and Approval
Following the interview, USCIS will make a decision on your application. If approved, you will receive your green card, granting you lawful permanent resident status. In some cases, USCIS may request additional documentation or conduct further review before making a decision.
7. Expedited Processing
In certain situations, it may be possible to request expedited processing for your adjustment of status application. While not guaranteed, USCIS may consider expedited requests based on specific circumstances. Here are some examples:
7.1. Extreme Urgency
If you can demonstrate an extreme urgency, such as a severe medical condition or humanitarian reasons, you may be eligible for expedited processing.
7.2. Humanitarian Reasons
Humanitarian reasons, such as the need to travel for medical treatment or to care for a critically ill relative, can be considered for expedited processing.
7.3. USCIS Error or Delay
If you can prove that USCIS made an error or caused an unreasonable delay in processing your application, you may request expedited processing to resolve the issue promptly.
8. Typical Processing Times for Adjustment of Status
While processing times can vary, it can be helpful to have a general idea of the average processing times for adjustment of status in different categories. Here are some estimates:
8.1. Family-Based Adjustment of Status
Family-based adjustment of status applications can take anywhere from several months to over a year for processing. The processing time can depend on factors such as the specific family relationship and the applicant’s country of origin.
8.2. Employment-Based Adjustment of Status
For employment-based adjustment of status applications, processing times can also range from several months to over a year. The processing time may depend on the category of employment and any priority date restrictions.
9. Tips to Expedite the Process
While you cannot control all aspects of the processing time, there are some steps you can take to help expedite the adjustment of status process. Consider the following tips:
9.1. Double-Check Your Application
Before submitting your application, carefully review it to ensure it is complete and accurate. This can help avoid unnecessary delays due to errors or omissions.
9.2. Respond Promptly to Requests for Evidence
If you receive a request for evidence (RFE), respond promptly and provide the requested documentation or information. Timely and thorough responses can help move the process along.
9.3. Follow Up with USCIS
If your application seems to be delayed or if you have not heard from USCIS for an extended period, consider reaching out to USCIS for an update. Be polite and provide any requested information or documentation promptly.
9.4. Seek Legal Assistance if Needed
If you encounter difficulties or have concerns throughout the process, it may be beneficial to seek legal assistance from an immigration attorney. They can guide you through the process, provide valuable advice, and help address any issues that may arise.
The timeline for adjustment of status can vary depending on several factors. While it’s natural to want a quick resolution, it’s essential to understand that the process takes time. By familiarizing yourself with the general steps and factors that can affect processing times, you can better navigate the adjustment of status journey.
Q1. Can I travel outside the United States while my adjustment of status application is pending?
Yes, but it’s crucial to consult with an immigration attorney and obtain proper travel authorization, such as an advance parole document, to avoid any complications.
Q2. What happens if my adjustment of status application is denied?
If your application is denied, you may have options to appeal the decision or reapply. Consulting with an immigration attorney can help you understand the best course of action based on your circumstances.
Q3. Can I work while my adjustment of status application is pending?
In many cases, applicants can apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) while their adjustment of status application is pending. This allows them to legally work in the United States.
Q4. Can I check the status of my adjustment of status application online?
Yes, USCIS provides an online system called “Case Status Online” where you can track the progress of your application by entering your receipt number.
Q5. Can I expedite the adjustment of status process if I have a job offer?
While a job offer alone may not be sufficient for expedited processing, certain employment-based categories may have priority, potentially leading to faster processing times. Consult an immigration attorney to understand your specific situation.