So, you are in the United States on a temporary visa, but you want to live in the country permanently. Do you have to go back to your country of residence and apply for a green card from there?
It is not generally necessary to go through such a disruption. Changing your visa from a temporary, nonimmigrant, one to a permanent, immigrant, one is called “adjustment of status,” and it generally allows foreign nationals to stay in the U.S. during the process.
To be eligible, one must be physically present in the U.S., and have entered the country legally, with some exceptions. Federal law accepts four main reasons for petitioning for adjustment of status.
- Family. A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident can file a Petition for Alien Relative on the applicant’s behalf.
- Employment. Similarly, a prospective employer in the U.S. can file a Petition for Alien Worker on an applicant’s behalf.
- Special Classifications. Certain classes of immigrants do not need a relative or employer file on their behalf.
- Humanitarian Programs. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has several humanitarian programs, through which those with nonimmigrant status may not need to petition at all.
Whether or not your petition is accepted depends in part on whether USCIS has reached its annual quota for green cards in each category. The timing of an application can make the difference between a successful adjustment to green card status and not.
There is more to the process than submitting the proper application and waiting. We will discuss the rest of the process in our next blog post.