Adjustment of Status (Greencards for family members already in the U.S.)


SHORSTEIN, LASNETSKI, & GIHON
helps family members of U.S. citizens obtain green cards.

What is adjustment of status?

Adjustment of status is the process of obtaining a greencard for people who are already in the United States.  There are two ways to obtain a greencard.  One is for those outside the United States who consular process, meaning they apply at a U.S. embassy for an immigrant visa and enter the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident and are mailed their greencard.  The other way to obtain a greencard is through "adjustment of status" from whatever status you had to that of a Legal Permanent Resident.  Either way ends with the same result.  You will obtain lawful permanent resident status that is permanent.  You will obtain an LPR card (aka greencard) which will either be valid for two (2) years (if it is a conditional greencard based on marriage to a United States citizen within 2 years) or a ten (10) year greencard.  If it is a conditional greencard, you must file to remove the conditions in order to get the 10 year greencard.  At the expiration of the 10 year greencard, you would file to renew the greencard. 

Who is eligible to adjust status to get a greencard?

There are many ways to obtain a greencard, but the most common ways are through a United States citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident family member or employer or through asylum, VAWA, or another humanitarian provision.  You must not be subject to any of the grounds of inadmissibility that apply to your particular basis of eligibility, or you must obtain a waiver for that ground if one is available and you are eligible. Some common grounds for ineligibility include certain criminal convictions, likelihood of becoming a public charge, health issues, and more.  Not all grounds of inadmissibility apply to each category.  For example, the public charge ground of inadmissibility does not apply to asylum seekers.  

For many people, working without authorization or overstaying a visa may prevent them from adjusting status to get a greencard.  But for others, USCIS has approved greencards for people who have violated their status.  These are policy considerations that are strictly up to USCIS.  For example, for immediate relatives of United States citizens who have overstayed their visa and worked in the United States without authorization, USCIS has recognized the policy that they typically will not deny a greencard application on those bases because they don't want to separate U.S. citizens and LPRs from their families. 

How do I apply for a greencard through adjustment of status?

Family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are treated differently depending on their relationship to the U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.  Spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of U.S. citizens (who are 21 or older) are considered immediate relatives, and are immediately able to immigrate to the U.S. if they otherwise qualify. 

Those family members that are not considered immediate relatives may still be eligible to immigrate to the U.S., however, there may be substantial waiting periods before the family member can actually become a lawful permanent resident.  It is common for family members to have to wait for many years depending on their relationship to the U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and which country they are currently a citizen. 
   
Eligible family members include:
  • Immediate Relatives -
  • Spouse of a U.S. citizen,
  • unmarried child of a U.S. citizen, if child is under 21, and
  • parents of a U.S. citizen, if the U.S. citizen is 21 or older
  • 1st Preference - Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens that are 21 and older
  • 2nd Preference - Spouse & unmarried sons and daughters under 21 of permanent residents
  • 3rd Preference - Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
  • 4th Preference - Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizen

In most cases, a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident ("the petitioner") files a petition (supported by documentation and evidence) with USCIS on behalf of their non-citizen family member ("beneficiary").  For immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, the petition and the application to adjust status can be filed at the same time, because they are immediately eligible to obtain a greencard.  However, for those that are not immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, the U.S. citizen family member would file the petition first, and upon approval and when the immigrant visa number becomes current (the wait in line is over), the foreign national may be able to adjust status in the U.S. 

There are some people who can adjust status without the need of a U.S Citizen or LPR family member.  Asylees who have been paroled into the U.S. do not need anyone to file a petition on their behalf.   Victims of violence at the hands of a U.S. citizen or LPR immediate relative may not have to rely on that family member filing a petition.  Give us a call to discuss your possible eligibility to file for a greencard inside the United States.  


Can I adjust status and get a greencard if I entered the United States without papers?

Unfortunately, the law requires that you have been "admitted or paroled" into the United States in order to adjust status.  That means if you entered through the border without being inspected by an immigration officer, you cannot get a greencard inside the United States.  You may be able to leave the United States and get an immigrant visa to reenter the United States as an immigrant and greencard holder, however, you may be subject to a 3 or 10 year bar from coming back if you were in the U.S. for a certain period of time with unlawful presence and then you leave.  So, you should always consult with an immigration lawyer before leaving the United States and before filing anything with immigration because there can be serious consequences and it is important to understand the risks and best strategies. 


Green card holders enjoy many benefits in the United States.  It is also the pathway to citizenship, which also has many benefits.  It is important to consult with an attorney to make sure you take the most appropriate actions to accomplish your immigration goals for your family members. 

Call Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon
to file your family based petition at


904-642-3332 (Jacksonville)

or

407-228-2019 (Orlando).

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