Pending Adjustment of Status Application: Navigating the Next Steps

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An adjustment of status application is a critical process for individuals seeking to obtain permanent residency in the United States without having to return to their home country for a visa interview. It is a procedure that allows for the transition from a nonimmigrant to an immigrant status while remaining in the United States, provided that the applicants meet the eligibility criteria established by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This path to legal permanent residency is commonly pursued by those who are already on temporary visas in the U.S., including fiancé(e)s, workers, and students, who have different reasons to change their status.

Throughout the pending period of an adjustment of status application, applicants must be aware of numerous considerations and requirements to maintain their eligibility. Key steps in the process include filing the necessary forms—such as Form I-485—checking visa availability, attending biometric appointments, and participating in interviews as required.

In certain situations, applicants are also eligible to apply for travel documents and work authorization while their application is being processed, permitting them to travel internationally and work legally in the U.S. without jeopardizing their pending application.

Navigating the intricacies of the adjustment of status application can be complex. It involves understanding the legal framework, maintaining lawful presence during the process, and abiding by specific rules, such as not traveling abroad without the appropriate authorization—Advanced Parole. Compliance with these regulations is essential to ensure the successful adjudication of the application and to secure a transition to permanent resident status in the United States.

Overview of Adjustment of Status Process

The Adjustment of Status process is a procedure for individuals currently residing in the United States to apply for lawful permanent resident status, commonly known as obtaining a Green Card. This path allows eligible applicants to transition from a non-immigrant or another lawful status directly to permanent residency without the need to leave the United States for consular processing.

Eligibility for Adjustment of Status typically includes:

  • Being physically present in the U.S.
  • Having an immigrant visa immediately available
  • Not being inadmissible to the United States for permanent residency

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) oversees the process, conducting rigorous background checks to ensure national security and the integrity of the immigration system.

Essential steps for Adjustment of Status include:

  1. Check eligibility under the various available categories.
  2. File the Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
  3. Attend biometrics appointment for fingerprinting and photo.
  4. Participate in an interview if required.
  5. Wait for decision on the application by USCIS.

Applicants should be aware that certain bars can impede the process, such as being in unlawful immigration status at the time of filing. Exemptions apply to immediate relatives and certain other categories. It is also important to note that traveling without authorization during the process may lead to the perception of abandoning the application, thus, applicants may need to secure an Advanced Parole document to travel without jeopardizing their application.

Eligibility Criteria

The criteria for a pending adjustment of status application are specific and must be met for an individual to proceed with their application. These include the completion of an underlying immigrant petition, the availability of a visa, and meeting admissibility requirements to the United States.

Immigrant Petition Basics

An individual must have an approved immigrant petition, often filed by a family member or employer, establishing their eligibility for a U.S. green card. This petition demonstrates a bona fide relationship or a qualifying job offer that is the basis for the adjustment of status.

Visa Availability

The applicant must ensure that a visa is currently available in their category. Visa availability depends on the limits set for each fiscal year and the applicant’s priority date, which is often the date the immigrant petition was filed.

Admissibility Requirements

To adjust status, applicants must have been inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States. Additionally, they must be physically present in the U.S. and not barred by any conditions that would make them inadmissible, such as certain criminal offenses or immigration violations.

Application Components

The completion and submission of the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, commonly referenced as Form I-485, involve a particular set of components integral to properly processing the adjustment of status application.

Form I-485

Form I-485 is the primary document for adjusting status to that of a lawful permanent resident in the United States. Applicants must use the latest edition of the form, ensuring compliance with the most current instructions and requirements.

Supporting Documents

Supporting documents must accompany Form I-485 to substantiate the applicant’s eligibility. These typically include:

  • Proof of identity: Government-issued photo identification
  • Birth certificate
  • Evidence of lawful entry into the U.S.: visa, passport page with admission or parole stamp
  • Affidavit of Support: Demonstrating that the applicant will not become a public charge

Biometrics Appointment

After the submission of Form I-485, applicants are scheduled for a biometrics appointment. At this appointment, their fingerprints, photograph, and signature are taken to conduct necessary background checks and verify identity.

Application Submission Strategy

Crafting an effective application submission strategy is critical for candidates seeking adjustment of status. The strategy should take into account concurrent filing, priority date awareness, and the potential for adjustment portability.

Concurrent Filing

Concurrent filing is a viable option for individuals who are eligible to file Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, at the same time as an immigrant petition, such as Form I-140, Employment-Based Immigrant Petition. This approach can save time by allowing both applications to be processed simultaneously.

Priority Dates

Every adjustment of status applicant must be aware of their priority date. It is the date when their petition was filed, and it establishes their place in line for visa availability. This date must be current, according to the Visa Bulletin published by the U.S. Department of State, before proceeding with the Adjustment of Status application.

Adjustment Portability

Adjustment portability allows certain employment-based adjustment applicants to change jobs or employers without affecting the pending I-485 application, provided certain conditions are met. The applicant must have an I-485 pending for 180 days or more, and the new job must be in the same or a similar occupational classification as the job for which the petition was filed.

Processing Times and Status Checks

When an individual applies for an adjustment of status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), monitoring the progress and understanding the timeframe of the application is critical. USCIS provides estimated processing times and tools for applicants to check the status of their cases online.

Checking Case Status Online

Applicants can track the status of their adjustment of status application by using the USCIS Case Status Online tool. To use this service, an individual needs their receipt number, a unique 13-character identifier assigned by USCIS to each application. Case updates, including approvals, requests for additional evidence, or notices of intent to deny, are accessible through this system.

Service Center Workloads

The processing time for an adjustment of status application heavily depends on the workload of the Service Center where the application is filed. Each Service Center has a different processing time which can be checked on the USCIS website. Applicants should refer to the Processing Times section, select their form type (e.g., I-485), and then choose the Service Center handling their case to get the current processing estimates.

Inquiry After Delays

If the processing time has surpassed the time shown in the USCIS processing times table, applicants can make an inquiry about their case. USCIS outlines a formula to calculate the case inquiry date: Case Inquiry Date = [time to complete 93% of adjudicated cases] – [today’s date – receipt date]. If this date is past, applicants may contact USCIS to inquire about unusual delays.

Interview and Adjudication

The interview and adjudication process are crucial steps in the adjustment of status application with USCIS, focusing on applicant eligibility verification and decision-making based on gathered information.

Preparation for the Interview

Applicants must gather all required documents, such as the Form I-130, evidence of eligibility, and any other supporting materials. They should review their application details and be ready to clarify any discrepancies or answer questions about their background and eligibility.

  • Required Documents: Bringing the correct documents, including identification and original copies of any forms or evidence submitted with the application.
  • Review of Information: Candidates should ensure that they are familiar with the information provided on their application to avoid inconsistencies during the interview.

Common Interview Questions

Interviewers will ask a range of questions to confirm the applicant’s eligibility for the status adjustment. Questions often revolve around:

  • Personal Background: Information about the applicant’s family, work history, and reason for seeking adjustment of status.
  • Eligibility Criteria: Specific queries about eligibility requirements, such as the relationship to the petitioner for family-based applications or details of employment for employment-based applications.

Post-Interview Adjudication

Once the interview is concluded, USCIS officers conduct background checks and review the case to make a determination. Factors influencing the decision include:

  • Security Checks: Ensuring the applicant does not pose a security threat and eligibility criteria are met.
  • Evidence Presented: Evaluation of all evidence and information provided before and during the interview to ensure compliance with immigration laws and regulations.

The outcome might result in approval, a request for additional evidence, or, in some cases, denial of the application.

Potential Challenges

When individuals are navigating the adjustment of status process to obtain a green card within the United States, they may encounter several significant hindrances that can affect the outcome of their application.

Request for Evidence

Request for Evidence (RFE): USCIS may issue an RFE if the application lacks necessary documentation or requires further clarification. Applicants should respond to RFEs by the deadline with the requested information to avoid processing delays.

  • Commonly Requested Documents:
    • Proof of employment
    • Birth certificates
    • Financial affidavits

Denial and Appeals

Denial of Application: If an adjustment of status application is denied, the applicant has the option to file a motion to reopen or reconsider the decision, or to appeal if eligible.

  • Possible Reasons for Denial:
    • Ineligibility based on immigration law
    • Criminal history
    • Application errors

Administrative Closure

Administrative Closure: Cases may be administratively closed for various reasons, removing them from the immigration judge’s active calendar without a final decision being rendered.

  • Implications:
    • The applicant’s status remains unchanged
    • Potentially reopened for adjudication in the future

Rights and Responsibilities

When an individual’s adjustment of status application is pending, they are granted certain rights and have important responsibilities to maintain. This period is critical to securing permanent residency in the United States.

During Application Pending Period

While an adjustment of status application is being processed, applicants have the right to remain in the United States legally. It’s crucial that applicants:

  • Avoid any actions that could lead to deportation, such as committing crimes or violating the terms of their visa.
  • Attend all USCIS appointments, including biometrics and interviews.
  • Update USCIS with any changes in personal information, contact details, or family status.

In terms of employment and travel:

  • They may apply for work authorization with Form I-765 (Employment Authorization Document or EAD).
  • To travel outside the U.S., they must secure an Advance Parole document by submitting Form I-131 to avoid abandoning their application.

After Obtaining a Green Card

Upon receiving a Green Card, new permanent residents have a different set of rights and responsibilities. They:

Rights:

  • Have the freedom to live and work anywhere in the United States.
  • Are protected by all laws of the United States, their state of residence, and local jurisdictions.
  • Can sponsor certain relatives for visas or Green Cards.

Responsibilities:

  • Are required to obey all laws of the United States, their state of residence, and local municipalities.
  • Must file income tax returns and report their income to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and state taxing authorities.
  • Should support the democratic form of government and not attempt to change the government through illegal means.
  • Males between the ages of 18 and 25 must register with the Selective Service System.

Renewal and Removal of Conditional Status

Navigating the U.S. immigration process requires awareness of crucial deadlines and procedures, particularly when dealing with the renewal and removal of conditional resident status.

Conditional Permanent Residence

Conditional Permanent Residence in the United States is granted to certain individuals on a temporary basis. Typically, it is valid for two years. Individuals who obtain residency through marriage or as entrepreneurs are often granted this conditional status. To maintain lawful residency, a conditional permanent resident must file for the removal of conditions prior to the expiration of their Green Card.

Removing Conditions

One must take action to remove the conditions on their permanent residence within the 90-day period before the expiration of their conditional Green Card. The process involves filing Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence for marriage-based green cards, or Form I-829, Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status, for those with entrepreneur-based green cards. As of January 2023, USCIS has extended the validity of Green Cards for individuals who file either form appropriately by 48 months beyond the card’s initial expiration date. This extension provides conditional residents with continued legal status while their petitions are processed.

Special Considerations

When navigating the adjustment of status process, applicants should be aware of certain permissions and restrictions that affect their daily lives. These include employment authorization, travel considerations, and special adjustments for certain immigrant categories.

Employment Authorization

While an adjustment of status application is pending, the applicant may apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. This document allows the person to work legally in the United States during the adjudication period. It’s important for the applicant to understand that working without an EAD can lead to issues with their application.

Travel During Pending Application

Applicants must be cautious about traveling outside of the United States while their adjustment of status application is pending. To travel abroad, they must obtain Advance Parole by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. Traveling without Advance Parole could result in the abandonment of the adjustment application, effectively terminating the process.

Adjustment for Special Immigrants

Certain applicants, such as those with a special immigrant visa (e.g., religious workers, international broadcasters, or Afghan or Iraqi translators), have unique pathways for adjusting their status. The process for special immigrants might also include changing the basis of their adjustment if a more advantageous category becomes available. Careful coordination and timing are critical for special immigrants to adjust their status successfully without experiencing delays or jeopardizing their application.

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