Green Card/Legal Permanent Residence
Adjustment of Status
Generally, people who would like to obtain a green card to live and work in the United States must apply for a visa at a US embassy or consulate. The most common ways to obtain a green card are:
- Via employment,
- Through marriage to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident (marriage visa) or
- Other immediate family relationship.
Usually, the applicant must leave the United States to complete the process. For those who have overstayed their visa, leaving the United States often results in several years of not being permitted to re-enter, which are difficult to overcome, unless the individual qualifies for a waiver.
Some immigrants are eligible to apply for their green card, and adjust status to that of a green card holder, while living in America.
Who can apply for adjustment of status?
Below are categories of aliens who can adjust status in the US:
- Those who are married to United States citizens and entered legally, whether or not they have overstayed their non-immigrant visa.
- Those who have visas currently available to them (including spouses of lawful permanent residents), who entered legally and have not been unlawfully present and have not worked illegally; and those protected by section 245(i) of the INA.
- Immigrants who entered on a K-1 visa and subsequently married a US citizen within 90 days of entry can adjust status in the United States. We can help with the green card adjustment of status process.
Adjustment of Status Process
Green card applicants wishing to complete the process in the US must file certain forms for adjustment of status based on marriage or other family relationship. The process includes an adjustment of status (green card) interview, medical exam, and background check. Those hoping to work or travel during the period when their green card application is processed require certain permits.
Once an immigrant holds a green card for five years, or three years if married to a US citizen, they are eligible to apply for US citizenship through the naturalization process.
Green Card through Marriage
- Immigration & Green Card for the Spouse of a US Citizen
The husband or wife of a United States citizen is considered an immediate relative for the purposes of immigrating to the USA. The green card through marriage process is one of the most popular ways for foreign nationals to immigrate to the US. Certain children of the immigrant spouse may also be entitled to a green card if petitioned by the US citizen.
- Marriage-Based Visa Requirements
In order to qualify for a marriage-based visa (green card), the couple must be legally married, the marriage must be bona fide in that the couple intends to establish a family life together, and any prior marriages must have legally ended. The petitioning spouse must also be able to financially support the marriage-based visa spouse.
- Green Card Immigration Process
Those who satisfy the marriage visa requirements can begin the green card through marriage process by filing forms in the US or at a consulate abroad (for US citizens who are not currently living in the United States). If filing in the United States, the form will be mailed to the USCIS location handling marriage green card applications for the state where the citizen spouse resides. After the petition is approved, the National Visa Center (NVC) will complete the process by helping the spouses fill out the necessary forms and pay the required fees. If the immigrant husband or wife apply for the green card abroad, the NVC will send the file to the appropriate US Consulate or Embassy. The foreign spouse will need to complete a medical exam, consular interview, and receive criminal record clearance prior to a marriage visa being issued. If the marriage is less than two years old, the spouse will be issued a two-year conditional green card that will need to be converted to a permanent green card over time.
If the immigrant spouse is living in the United States, they may be allowed to complete the green card process in the United States, without having to travel abroad. This process is called Adjustment of Status and can be requested with the appropriate USCIS office. We can help determine if you qualify for the adjustment of status process.
- K-3 Visa for the Spouse of a United States Citizen
The formal marriage visa process can be time consuming. Often, a husband and wife must live apart during the process if the immigrant is located outside the US. It is sometimes faster to bring the spouse to the America on a K-3 marriage visa. The K-3 visa allows the foreign spouse to enter the United States on a temporary basis in order to complete the immigration/green card process through Adjustment of Status. Instead of waiting for a green card abroad, the immigrant spouse is allowed to remain in the US.
- Immigration and Green Card for the Spouse of a Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder)
While the spouse of a US Citizen can apply for a green card immediately, the husband or wife of a green card holder must wait a period of time after filing before a green card becomes available. There is an annual limit to the number of marriage visas available to spouses of green card holders and the current wait time is about five years. If the green card holder becomes a US citizen before a marriage visa is available for the husband or wife, the spouse will be eligible to adjust the application as the immediate relative of a United States citizen.
- Naturalization and Citizenship for spouses of US Citizens
Generally, green card holders in America are allowed to apply for US Citizenship through naturalization after five years. Some lawful permanent resident spouses of US citizens, however, are allowed to apply after three years.
Green Card For Parents
A green card is immediately available to the parents of US citizens over the age of 21. In order to qualify for a green card for parents, the US citizen must be residing in the United States and may need to arrange to financially sponsor the parent(s) for a period of up to ten years.
Green Card for Parents already inside the United States
To obtain a green card for parents of US citizens when the parent is located in the United States, the US citizen and foreign national parent will apply for the green card using the adjustment of status process. Because the parent is considered to be the immediate relative of the US citizen child, many potential issues can be waived for the parent. For instance, some parents who are presently in the United States unlawfully can take advantage of the adjustment of status process and stay in the US for the duration of processing. If your parent entered the United States without inspection, then they would require a waiver. Another option is if they are the parent or spouse of a member of the US armed forces, Ready Reserve or are a veteran. Finally, if your parent entered without inspection they may be eligible for adjustment of status under 245i.
To begin the adjustment of status process for a green card for parents of US citizens over the age of 21, your lawyer will prepare an immediate relative green card petition to be filed on behalf of the US citizen child, as well as an adjustment of status application to be filed on behalf of the parent who is present in the United States. Among the items necessary for proper filing are
- The parent’s completed immigration medical exam
- Filing fees
- Birth certificates
- Financial support documentation and, if necessary
- Proof of parent/child relationship
When the application is received and approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the parent will be given an appointment to attend a fingerprinting session. The immigration officials will then conduct a thorough background check of both US and international criminal databases. Once the background check has been completed, USCIS will determine whether parent and child will be required to attend a green card interview at a local USCIS office or if the parent’s green card application can be approved without an interview. If an interview is necessary, many cases will be verbally approved prior to the end of the interview. A green card will be delivered in the mail within weeks. If so desired, the parent can apply for US citizenship beginning five years after issuance of the parent’s green card.
Green Card for Parents outside the United States
The process for obtaining a green card for parents of US citizens where the parent is located outside the US is a little different than if the parent is in the US. In order to obtain a green card for parents of US citizens where the parent is currently in a foreign country, the US citizen child begins the process by submitting a petition to USCIS. Once USCIS approves the initial immediate relative petition, the application package goes to the US State Department’s National Visa Center (NVC) where each party to the application (parent and child) will be responsible for completing required forms and information. The US citizen child must complete and submit a satisfactory affidavit of support in which the child agrees to be financially responsible for the parent for a period of up to ten years. The foreign national parent will be responsible for completing State Department visa forms and obtaining necessary vital records from government officials, such as birth certificates and police certificates. Applicants who retain us as their immigration lawyer will provide the required information to us so that we can handle all the necessary arrangements and details.
When the application forms and required documents are approved, background checks have been completed, and the applicant has passed the immigration medical exam, the parent will be scheduled to appear at the US Embassy or Consulate where they live for an interview. If approved at the interview, the parent will be required to enter the US within six months.
Immigration Through Special Categories of Family
You may also be eligible to get a green card if you:
- Are a battered child or spouse of a U.S. citizen
- Entered the United States with a K visa as the fiancé(e) or spouse of a U.S. citizen or an accompanying child
- Obtained V nonimmigrant status
- Are a widow(er) of a U.S. citizen
- Are born to a foreign diplomat in the United States