Getting the Green (Card) – Adjustment of Status as an option for potential U.S. permanent residents

pexels-photo-126345Rajesh came to the United States in 2012 on an H1-B visa, working as a technical consultant at a big computing firm. He moved to Bellevue, met his wife Deepa at a community event, moved in with her and they just had their first child together. But Rajesh is concerned because his H1-B visa is close to its expiration date, and while his wife is a U.S. citizen, he is worried that without his visa he won’t be able to remain in the U.S. with her and his daughter. At the very least, he might have to go outside the U.S. and apply for a green card, waiting for months for the green card to process and being away from his family for a long time. What options does Rajesh have?

One of the best options for people in situations like the one described above is the immigration process known as adjustment of status, which refers specifically to changing a non-immigrant visa to an immigrant visa and becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States. It is specifically intended for people who are already present in the United States, enabling them to get a green card without needing to return to their home country.

Eligibility for adjustment of status is contingent on being eligible for a green card. Some of the most common forms of eligibility are being the unmarried son or daughter, spouse, or parent of a U.S. citizen over the age of 21. While these are the most common forms of eligibility for a green card, a familial relationship with a lawful permanent resident, or an employment based green card are also viable options. In particular, employees with a highly specialized skill set, or advanced education, are much more likely to be eligible for an employment based green card. For Rajesh, adjustment of status is a really good option, as the legal spouse of a U.S. citizen, there are significantly shorter processing times than for the fiancée of a permanent resident of the United States for example.

As always in cases of green card marriages however, one of the major issues to be prepared for is making it clear that the marriage is legitimate, rather than simply one of convenience so that Rajesh can obtain his lawful permanent residence in the United States. In our imagined situation, Rajesh is fortunate in that he lives with his wife, and they recently had their first child together. Furthermore, his wife Deepa is a meticulous scrap booker, their house together is lined with dozens of photos of the happy couple at their wedding. Taken together, Rajesh is able to put together a convincing case to the USCIS that his marriage is legitimate, rather than a sham, and as such is eligible for adjustment of status. For adjustment of status one of the most important issues is demonstrating the importance of the connection to the United States, rather than relying on a tenuous claim to a visa.

As an option made available to immigrants who are already in the United States, adjustment of status is a measure intended to ease the burden of separation on families and to ameliorate the costs of having to travel back and forth to the home country. Though Rajesh’s case is entirely hypothetical, it provides a clear illustration of the importance of utilizing adjustment of status to ensure that families, workers, and other groups can remain in the United States. In doing so, these people continue to contribute as productive members of the American economy while minimizing the harm done to their families.

*This article does not constitute legal advice. It has been reviewed by immigration attorney Olga Guzhva.