Adjustment of Status With the USCIS through Family Relationship

Family-Based Immigration

If you are not a US citizen but your presence in the United States is legal, you have a US immigration status of some type or another. If you are a student, for example, you might be classified as F-1; while if you are a multinational executive, you might hold a green card. Other possible classifications include:

  • J-1 exchange visitor;
  • asylee;
  • employment-based nonimmigrant visa; and
  • dozens of other possible immigration statuses.

To say that you are “out of status”, on the other hand, is to say that your presence in the United States is illegal. To “adjust your status” means to change your immigration status from one classification to another (typically green card status) using Form I-485.

Basis of Adjustments of Status

The main advantage of obtaining adjustment of status through Form I-485 is that it allows you to obtain a green card without having to leave the United States and file an application for an immigration visa from your home country. The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) provides two pathways for you to adjust your USCIS status — employment-based immigration and family-based immigration.

Adjusting your status through a family relationship requires that you rely on a close family member who is a US citizen or green cardholder. The process is tricky, the requirements are cumbersome, and no two cases are exactly alike.

Herman Legal Group has been successfully processing family-based I-485 adjustment of status applications for over 25 years now, and we understand how the individual nuances of each case must be taken into account when dealing with the USCIS and seeking a green card.

Steps to Take to Adjust Your Status Via Family Relationship

Following is a general rundown of the steps you need to take to adjust your immigration status in the United States based on a family relationship with a US citizen or permanent resident.

Step One: Determine your basis for obtaining a green card

If you are filing an application for a green card through a family relationship, your family member (a US citizen or permanent resident) will need to file Form I-130 on your behalf to get the process started. You cannot proceed without the assistance of your US citizen or permanent resident relative.

Step Two: Determine Your Priority Date

Determining your specific basis for family immigration might be obvious, or it might require the application of some judgment.

Several family members may appear to be candidates to sponsor you. Suppose, for example, that your brother is a US citizen, and you are also married to a US citizen. Instead of allowing your brother to sponsor you, you should probably allow your US citizen spouse to sponsor you.

The reason for this is that the timing of your adjustment of status is subject to certain priority dates. Marriage to a US citizen means that you will not have to wait any extra length of time to become a lawful permanent resident after your visa is processed. If you rely on your brother, on the other hand, you might have to wait for decades to file for adjustment of status.

Step Three: Have Your Relative File Form I-130 on Your Behalf

Your relative must prove his family relationship to you through documentary evidence — birth certificates, a marriage certificate, etc.

Step Four: File Form I-485

Although you may file Form I-485 yourself (without your sponsoring relative’s signature), you may only file it once your priority date becomes current. Read the instructions carefully before you file Form I-485.

The form requires a lot of documentation, and the documentation must be in proper form — a certified copy of your birth certificate, for example. Failure to submit proper documentation will certainly delay the processing of your lawful permanent resident application, and may in some cases result in outright rejection.

Herman Legal Group can help you collect the appropriate documentation in the proper form so that your application will be successful the first time around. Our lawyers and paralegals are always available for phone calls, emails, videoconferencing, and in-office visits.

4(a) The Medical Exam

You must undergo a medical exam administered by a USCIS-approved physician (known as a Civil Surgeon”). The results of your medical exam are valid for 12 months. To pass, you must prove that you have received certain vaccinations and that you have no communicable diseases (you may still enter the US with certain contagious diseases — HIV, for example).

4(b) Concurrent Filing

If your priority date is current, meaning that you do not have to wait in line to file for adjustment of status after Form I-130 is approved by the USCIS, you may file Form I-130 (petition for alien relative) and Form I-485 (for adjustment of status) in the same package so that you can adjust status more quickly.

Step Five: Provide Your Biometric Information at the Nearest Application Support Center

Biometric information means information that can be used to personally identify you . Before your application to adjust status to permanent resident will be considered complete, you will have to show up at a USCIS Application Support Center and:

  • Have your photo taken;
  • Provide your signature; and 
  • Allow yourself to be fingerprinted.

This information will be used to conduct security checks (in other words, to find out whether you are a terrorist, a criminal or someone else who is inadmissible to the United States/). This information will be used to create your green card, and it may be used to identify you in the future.

Step Six: Attend Your USCIS Interview

Not all adjustment of status applicants are required to submit to an in-person interview with a USCIS officer, but most are. The USCIS will notify you of the date and time of your interview. Remember that anything you say at your green card interview will be under oath.

If your adjustment of status application is based on marriage, your spouse will be expected to accompany you, and you two might be interviewed separately. If you retain Herman Legal Group to represent you, your lawyer can accompany you to your green card interview.

You will be required to bring originals of all documentation that you submitted with your green card application (even an expired I-94), as well as your passport.

Step Seven: Respond to any Requests for Evidence (RFEs) that You Might Receive

An RFE, or Request for Evidence, is a document that you might receive in the mail after you submit Form I-485 for adjustment of status. There is nothing unusual about receiving an RFE, although it might delay a final decision on your adjustment of status petition.

An RFE will ask you for additional evidence. Suppose, for example, that your green card application is based on marriage to a US citizen, but it is your second marriage and you failed to submit evidence that you divorced your first spouse. You will then receive an RFE asking for divorce documentation.

It is important that you respond quickly, thoroughly, and accurately to an RFE. Failure to do so could not only delay your application but actually cause it to be rejected.

Step Eight: Wait for the Final Decision

As long as:

  • you were still in valid immigration status on the date that you filed your application, and
  • the USCIS accepted your application for processing;

you may remain in the United States while you wait for the USCIS to issue a final decision on your adjustment of status petition. The final decision will be mailed to you. If it is negative, you will be expected to promptly depart the United States.

The Heman Legal Group Advantage

At Herman Legal Group, we pride ourselves in our professionalism and on our ethical approach to every case we take. Our philosophy is to treat each case individually and to collaborate as a team to win together. We never forget that we work for you — not the other way around. We have helped many clients become lawful permanent residents using this formula.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who is ineligible to apply for adjustment of status?

Adjustment of status is not for everyone — under certain circumstances, the USCIS may consider you ineligible to adjust your status to permanent resident or any other immigration status. Some examples of circumstances that will render you ineligible to adjust your status include:

  • You entered the country illegally;
  • You entered the country legally but overstayed your visa and are out of status at the time you file your adjustment of status petition;
  • Your current immigration status, although legal, does not allow you to adjust your status. Examples of such statuses include J-1 exchange visitor status, B
  • visitor status, and visa waiver status (available to nationals of certain countries);
  • You violated certain immigration regulations (working without a work permit, for example, if your current visa does not carry with it the right to work); or
  • Some other ground of inadmissibility applies to you — you were convicted of a serious crime, for example.

Loopholes do exist – in some circumstances it is still possible for you to depart the United States, apply for immigration status at a US embassy or consulate abroad, and enter the US in that status. In other cases it is possible to file an application for a “waiver of inadmissibility.”

How long does it take to obtain permanent residence?

That depends largely on where you submit your application, The USCIS maintains a number of service centers throughout the United States, and which service center you submit your application to depends on your state of residence.

Some service centers are busier than others, and as a consequence, some service centers are slower because they deal with long backlongs. A general answer to the question of how long it takes to process a permanent residency application is at least a year. Under certain circumstances it could take considerably longer.

Can I work in the U.S. while my adjustment of status petition is being processed?

Yes, and long as you first obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You should submit your EAD application together with your application for adjustment of status. You will have to wait about 90 days for it to arrive, and you may not work until you receive it.

Your EAD will be issued for one year only. You will need to file an application for renewal and have the renewal document in your hand to keep working if your adjustment of status petition is still pending after one year. Once you receive your green card, you will have the automatic right to work in the US and you will no longer need an EAD.

My father is terminally ill. Can I travel abroad to see him while my adjustment of status petition is pending? He might be dead by the time my green card application is approved.

Yes, you can travel abroad while your adjustment of status application is pending. If you wish to return, however, you will need to obtain a travel document known as “advance parole” before you leave the United States. You can even obtain a one-year multiple re-entry advance parole document.

If you leave the US without advance parole, your green card application will be considered abandoned and you will need to start all over again by filing an application for an immigration visa from a US embassy or consulate overseas.

Can I include my spouse and children on my adjustment of status application?

Yes, although your spouse and children must each submit a separate application. Any child you include must be under 21 years old and unmarried. If your family is located overseas, they can be issued immigration visas to enter the United States.

How Can an Immigration Attorney Help Me?

A skilled immigration attorney can greatly increase your odds of successfully navigating the adjustment of status process. In particular, your attorney can help you:

  • Make sure that all of the required documentation is error-free. This can be trickier than it seems.
  • Assemble all supporting documents in their required form (certified copies when necessary, for example) based on your current immigrant status.
  • Prepare thorough and prompt responses to any Requests for Evidence (RFEs) that you might receive.
  • Coach you for your USCIS interview, and attend the interview with you if necessary.
  • Help you avoid common pitfalls that could damage your application.
  • Head off problems before they arise.

Time is of the Essence — Act Now

Unlike most areas of law, US immigration law is the same no matter which state you live in. The Herman Legal Group is a law firm that represents clients who need immigration law services in all 50 states, and even overseas.

Our immigration attorneys and staff speak over a dozen languages, and we have been helping immigrants for more than a quarter of a century. Our law firm offers one major intangible advantage that few other immigration law firms can match — we actually care about our clients and their cases You are NOT just a case number to us — you are a person, with a future.

Contact us anytime 24/7 by calling (+1) 216-696-6170, by completing our online intake form, or by stopping in at one of our offices.

At Herman Legal Group, Your Future Matters Most
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