Filing for a Green Card

Step 3: Filing for the “Green Card” or Application to Adjust Status

Once the USCIS has approved the Immigrant Petition (in some cases both Step 2 and Step 3 may be filed concurrently) those individuals present in the U.S., may apply for a green card through a process known as adjustment of status.

Application to Adjust to Permanent Resident Status (Form I-485)

In order to apply for adjustment of status, the Form I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status and all supporting documentation must be filed with the USCIS.

In order to file the Application for Adjustment of Status, employment-sponsored applicants must provide the following documentation:

  1. Complete copies of passports for each applicant (cover to cover, including blank pages);
  2. Copies of Forms I-94 for each applicant (front and back);
  3. Copies of drivers’ licenses (color copies if possible);
  4. Copies of marriage certificates;
  5. Copies of birth certificates including both parents’ names for each applicant;
  6. If previously married, proof of the termination of prior marriages; and
  7. Letter from employer confirming continued offer of permanent employment.

NOTE:  All documents must be translated to English if necessary.

Government Issued Documentation (Birth, Marriage, Divorce, Adoption certificates)

Each government has an official format of government documents. The USCIS requires that the applicants filing for Adjustment of Status meet document requirements as defined by the Foreign Affairs Manual.

Click here to view the list of appropriate documents.

Medical Exam

Each applicant for Adjustment of Status must submit the results of a medical examination. A medical exam may only be completed by an approved USCIS physician. For a list of approved physicians in your area, please click here.

The results of the examinations will be returned to the applicant in sealed envelopes, and must be submitted to the USCIS unopened. An applicant should only proceed with medical exams if a priority date is or will be current in the near future.

Likewise, all applicants for permanent resident visas must obtain certain vaccinations prior to the issuance of the resident status. The USCIS designated physicians must verify that applicants for resident status have met the vaccination requirement.

Photo Requirements

Applicants for Adjustment of Status are also required to file the application with photos. You may click here to view USCIS photo specifications.

Supplemental Forms I-765 and I-131

Along with the Applicant to Adjust Status, applicants may file Forms (I-765) Application for Employment Authorization and (I-131) Application for Travel Authorization for the principal applicant and any depending family members.

Once the Advance Parole Authorization document is issued, usually for multiple entries for a one-year period, it may be used to travel in and out of the U.S. in lieu of a visa stamp in the passport. Once the Employment Authorization is approved, an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will be issued and the EAD card will take the place of work authorizations pursuant to a nonimmigrant employment-based visa. EAD cards may be valid for up to two (2) years if the priority date is not current at the time of issuance.

Within six (6) months of the Application to Adjust Status (Form I-485) being filed with the USCIS, applicants will be scheduled for a biometrics appointment. At the biometric appointment, applicants will be required to submit fingerprints and a photograph. Attendance at a biometric appointment is mandatory.

Consular Processing (Obtaining a Green Card at Home Consulate/Embassy)

Individuals not currently in the U.S. or who do not qualify to adjust status in the U.S. will need to apply for the green card through the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. This process is known as consular processing.

If required to consular process, once the Form I-140 petition is approved, it will be transferred to the National Visa Center to continue processing the case.

The National Visa Center sends the applicant a fee bill and the immigrant visa application, known as the DS-230 Parts I and II, when a visa number is about to become available. The National Visa Center handles preliminary processing of the application and transfers the application to the U.S. embassy or consulate in the applicant’s home country when the priority date is current.

Once the NVC schedules the interview, the principal applicant and dependent family members return to their home country prior to their interview to complete their medical exam and interview. Applicants should expect to be out of the country for approximately a minimum of one (1) to two (2) weeks to complete this process.

Documents typically required for consular processing include the following:

  • Complete copies of passports for each applicant (cover to cover, including blank pages);
  • Copies of Forms I-94 for each applicant (front and back);
  • Copies of drivers’ licenses (color copies if possible);
  • Copies of marriage certificates;
  • Copies of birth certificates including both parents’ names for each applicant;
  • If previously married, proof of the termination of prior marriages; and
  • Letter from employer confirming continued offer of permanent employment.

All documents must be translated to English if necessary.

Advantages of Advance Parole (AP) and Employment Authorization (EAD)

The Advance Parole travel document eliminates the need to obtain a visa while traveling outside of the U.S. This is an even more important advantage during times of lengthy delays in visa processing while awaiting the completion of security clearances at U.S. consulates.

With AP and an EAD, it is not necessary to extend H or L status, which can save significant fees.

Individuals are generally limited to a period of five (5) to seven (7) years in the U.S. depending on whether they hold H-1B, L-1A or L-1B nonimmigrant visa status. For those who choose to work on the EAD and relinquish H or L status, any remaining time in H or L status may be recaptured in the event that there are problems with application to adjust status.

It is beneficial to obtain AP and an EAD just in case it is needed. Obtaining AP and an EAD does not prevent individuals from traveling with the H or L visa and obtaining some of the advantages that relate to such travel.

Advantages of Maintaining H or L Nonimmigrant Visa Status

Upon arrival at an airport or land port of entry, foreign nationals traveling with AP are usually referred to secondary inspection for review of their documents. This is less likely to occur to foreign nationals entering pursuant to valid H or L nonimmigrant visas.
If an application to adjust status is denied or for some reason abandoned, an individual will continue to have legal status following the denial or abandonment if maintaining H or L nonimmigrant visa status. Other applicants become removable from the United States.

For those who maintain H or L nonimmigrant visa status, they may extend that status while the application to adjust status is pending. They may also work during the pendency of a timely filed petition for extension of stay. An adjustment applicant whose EAD expires is not able to work during the pendency of an EAD renewal application but instead must wait for approval of the new EAD.

For those who maintain H or L nonimmigrant visa status, they may travel immediately following the filing of the application to adjust status. AP application adjudications may be delayed three or four months, during which time an applicant is unable to travel internationally.

Travel by Spouses and Children

If a spouse or child is overseas at the time an individual applies to adjust status, s/he should be able to obtain an H-4 or L-2 visa to enter the U.S. and subsequently apply to adjust status either concurrently or by following-to-join (as long as the individual is maintaining H or L nonimmigrant visa status). Should the application to adjust status be approved while the spouse or child is outside of the U.S., s/he will not be able to obtain an H-4 or L-2 visa. In such a case, s/he would either need to be in possession of AP in order to return to the U.S. or else wait to immigrant visa process at the local U.S. consulate.

For those who engage in open market employment and work for an employer other than the H or L petitioning employer, a spouse or child should use AP.

An L-2 visa holder working in the U.S. pursuant to an EAD may enter on a valid L-2 nonimmigrant visa or with AP and an EAD. An H-4 visa holder working in the U.S. pursuant to an EAD, should enter the United States using AP.