Obtaining lawful permanent resident status is one of the most important steps that you can take if you want to continue living and working permanently in the United States. Lawful permanent resident status is also the status that an immigrant or non-U.S. citizen will need to reach if they ever want to qualify to become a U.S. citizen.
In order to achieve a lawful permanent resident status, a non-U.S. citizen will need to apply for either a visa or temporary residency permit. Basically, once a non-U.S. resident has been granted temporary resident status, then they may apply to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident. Of course, this is assuming that they meet all of the criteria to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
Briefly, an “adjustment of status” is the phrase used to refer to the legal process of changing the status of a temporary U.S. resident to that of a permanent U.S. resident. The adjustment process is most often sought when a non-U.S. citizen obtains a green card through marriage. However, a party cannot simply ask to have their status adjusted. Instead, they must be able to prove that they are eligible to apply for an adjustment of status.
How Can I Apply for LPR?
In order to apply for lawful permanent resident status, an applicant will need to submit Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This form along with its instructions can be found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) website.
In general, an applicant will need to determine whether they are seeking lawful permanent resident status while living inside or outside of the United States. If they are applying from outside the United States, then they will need to find the instructions associated with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that is located in the country in which they are currently staying. For the purposes of this article, the main focus will be on those applying from the United States.
Next, a temporary resident who is already living in the United States will need to prove which one of the following categories they fall under and why that specific category will allow them to achieve lawful permanent resident status. For instance, a candidate may be required to demonstrate that they either:
- Have familial ties to a person who has already achieved lawful permanent residency status or is a U.S. citizen;
- Are being sponsored by an employer or are an alien entrepreneur that meets certain requirements;
- Fall under the categories listed for special immigrants;
- Are a victim of human trafficking or other crimes;
- Can file under a special adjustment program;
- Qualify as an asylee or refugee; and/or
- Various other categories.
Once the applicant has determined the proper designation, they must gather and attach the other mandatory forms or other supporting documents. They may also be required to submit the following types of evidence:
- Two recent passport photos;
- A copy of their government-issued identification document;
- A copy of their birth certificate;
- Documents proving they were inspected by immigration officers and were either paroled or admitted entry into the United States;
- Proof that they qualify for the immigration category they selected; and/or
- A copy of a marriage certificate or other document that is associated with the reason why they are requesting to have their status adjusted.
An applicant will also need to prove that an immigrant visa is immediately available at the time they file their application, that they hold a lawful immigrant status at the time of filing, and that there are no reasons why they should be denied their request to adjust their status. Again, depending on which category they file under, there may be some extra requirements.
In addition, the applicant will need to file these forms with the USCIS. This process may also involve paying a specific filing fee, scheduling and attending a biometrics services appointment, scheduling and attending an interview with an immigration officer, and providing proof of signature.
Who Is Eligible to Apply?
Some non-U.S. residents who may be eligible to apply for an adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident include:
- An immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, such as a spouse, unmarried child who is under 21 years of age, and/or a parent who is 21 years of age or older;
- An immediate relative of a lawful permanent resident who meets the age requirements and is either a spouse, parent, or child;
- Persons admitted entry into the U.S who are either the fiancé or child of a fiancé of a U.S. citizen. It should be noted that the fiancé of a U.S. citizen may only file Form I-485 after they marry the U.S. citizen to whom they are currently engaged;
- The widow or widower of a U.S. citizen;
- Immigrant workers who are sponsored by U.S. employers or qualify as an alien entrepreneur;
- Meet the criteria to be deemed a “special immigrant” (e.g., religious workers) or have been living in the United State for at least a year as a refugee or asylee;
- Are a victim of human trafficking or another crime;
- Have won the diversity visa lottery; and/or
- Several other categories that are listed in the instructions on Form I-485, which can be found on the USCIS website.
Who Is Ineligible to Apply?
There are a number of reasons that an immigrant may be deemed ineligible to apply for an adjustment of lawful permanent residency status. Some common reasons that an applicant may be denied include:
- That they entered the United States without being admitted or paroled by an immigration officer after an inspection;
- They entered the United States as a nonimmigrant crewman;
- They are or were employed in the United States without having proper authorization;
- They did not have a lawful immigration status at the time they filed their application for adjustment of status;
- They failed to continue to maintain a lawful status since their initial entry into the United States;
- They were admitted into the United States without a visa or have violated the terms of their nonimmigrant status; and
- Various other reasons which can be found in the instructions for Form I-485 on the USCIS website.
Should I Contact an Immigration Attorney?
The procedures required to adjust the status of an immigrant to a lawful permanent resident and/or to obtain a green card can be fairly complicated. This is because such procedures tend to involve filing lots of legal forms for which you must have a thorough understanding of each separate form’s instructions.
Depending on the facts of your situation and on the U.S. immigration laws that may apply, some issues concerning the adjustment of an immigration status may also be much more confusing than others.
Thus, if you need assistance with adjusting your immigration status to that of a lawful permanent resident or have general questions about the process to obtain a green card, then it may be in your best interest to consult with a local immigration attorney immediately.
An experienced immigration attorney will be able to guide you through the necessary procedures and can assist you in navigating the U.S. immigration system. Your attorney can help you apply for a green card, or alternatively, may be able to explain why your application was denied. Your attorney will also be able to recommend other types of immigration documents that you may want to apply for instead.
In addition, your attorney can provide general legal advice and will be able to answer any questions you may have regarding your immigration status or about the process to obtain a green card. Alternatively, if you have been a green card holder for a number of years, then your attorney will also be able to determine if you may be eligible to apply directly for U.S. citizenship.
Lastly, if you are being asked to attend an immigration law hearing, your lawyer can provide any necessary legal services and will be able to represent you before an immigration court.