Whether you filed on your own or with an attorney, the day that your I-130 alien relative petition is approved is an amazing day! However, the I-130 approval is not the end of your journey, it is the beginning. The next question is, can I file for adjustment of status and get my green card now?
Adjustment of Status is the process of changing your nonimmigrant status (H-1B, F-1, etc.) and becoming a lawful permanent resident (“LPR”). Once you make it from nonimmigrant status to LPR status, you will have permanent authorization to live and work in the United States. In order to do this, you must first file your I-485, “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status,” and associated petitions with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”).
Once your I-130 is approved, there must be an immigrant visa number available to you before your I-485 can be filed. The I-130 petition approval will indicate a very important piece of information, the priority date. This is the date that will inform you of whether there is currently a visa number available to you – you can cross reference your priority date with the visa bulletin linked below. It is very important that you not file your I-485 before your priority date is current; your case may be rejected, or worse, it may be “accepted” and then denied, costing you thousands of dollars in filing fees.
Let’s assume your priority date is current. Before I am willing to file an adjustment of status for a client, several other conditions must be met as well. First, we will review your current status. Any intending immigrant must be “in status,” meaning that you must be maintaining your current legal status (i.e., your nonimmigrant status such as H-1B visa or F-1 visa). If a client is out of status, even for one day, our consultation will go a different route to consider alternate strategies including waivers.
Next, we will cover other potential issues, and including your grounds of inadmissibility which might exclude you or otherwise impact your application. One of the most common issues I see is potentially working without authorization, which is a violation of status that may cause you to fall “out of status.” Whether this can be overcome will depend on the facts of your situation and the basis of your application.
At this stage we will also review all the filing requirements with you, and review your supporting documents, including recent taxes, translations of all foreign documents, identity documents (birth certificates, passports, etc.) and USCIS required documentation such as photos and police clearances.
Of all the documents you most provide to USCIS, the one that often results in a Request for Evidence is the Medical Examination. Most applicants must submit Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, confirming your medical history and vaccination records. Here’s my priceless tip – make sure your civil surgeon provides you with a copy before sealing the medical record, so that your attorney can review it to ensure it is completed properly. Also, the I-693 has been revised recently, so be sure that your form is dated October 11, 2011 or later.
To review, you may be able to file your I-485 once:
(a) your family-based immigrant petition (“I-130”) is approved,
(b) your priority date is current,
(c) you have documented all the necessary requirements (taxes, identity, Medical Examination, etc.),
(d) and your attorney has reviewed your current status and documents and confirmed that you are ready to proceed!
The thing I stress the most to clients is that the I-485 is an expensive, important application! Be honest with your attorney so that he can address all your issues at once – it is much better to take the time up front to fully review a case, rather than having your I-485 application denied by USCIS. At $1,070 per applicant, you cannot afford to have an I-485 denied for avoidable reasons!
Form I-485: http://www.uscis.gov/i-485
State Department Visa Bulletin: http://travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_1360.html