The Adjustment of Status Process, Explained
Everything you need to know about the fees, forms, and processing times for getting a green card while in the United States
What is Adjustment of Status?
The adjustment of status process allows certain non-U.S. citizens within the United States to apply for lawful permanent residency — also known as a green card — without having to leave the U.S.
Boundless offers unlimited support from our team of immigration experts, so you can apply with confidence and focus on what’s important, your life in the U.S.
The process is typically used by individuals who entered the U.S. on a temporary visa, such as a student or work visa, and wish to become permanent residents. This guide covers everything you need to know about applying for adjustment of status.
The alternative to AOS is consular processing, which is when you apply for a green card from outside the United States. When you use consular processing, your green card will be processed by your nearest U.S. consulate or embassy, and you’ll remain outside the United States until your green card is approved. Both AOS and consular processing have their own timelines, application forms, supporting documents, and costs, but the eligibility requirements are the same. If you are unsure which process applies to you, see our guide on the differences between AOS and Consular Processing.
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The Adjustment of Status Process
How to Get a Green Card Through AOS
- Check your green card eligibility.
- Have your sponsor file the appropriate petition for your green card category:
- Once your petition has been filed, USCIS must grant it. The timeline for this can vary between several months to well over a year, depending on your individual circumstances.
- Once USCIS grants your petition, you can check for up-to-date visa availability for your green card category. This will vary depending on your circumstances, green card category, and country of origin. There’s no wait for the immediate family members of U.S. citizens, but applicants in other categories must sometimes wait years or even decades.
- Once a visa is available, file your adjustment of status application (Form I-485). You may also want to file requests for a work permit and “advance parole” travel document so that you can work and travel freely while waiting for a decision on your AOS application. Note that should the USCIS fee proposal go into place, the costs associated with work and travel visas could increase significantly.
- After receiving your I-485 form, USCIS will mail you a date, time, and location to take your fingerprints and eye scan (also known as a biometrics appointment).
- Based on the information provided in the I-485 form and the background checks conducted by USCIS, you may or may not be required to attend an in-person interview. If you are called for an interview, the officer will place you under oath and ask you questions about your application.
- USCIS might require further evidence and will mail you a formal request if so. In some cases, you might also be called for a follow-up interview.
- Within 90 days (on average) from your interview, you should receive a decision either granting or denying your application. (You can also check your case’s status online at any time.) If your application is granted, you will receive an approval notice in the mail, followed by your physical green card shortly after.
How Much Does Adjustment of Status Cost?
To obtain your green card application through Adjustment of Status, there are several application fees to plan for along the way.
- First, you have to pay all fees associated with your initial petition. You’ll typically pay $535 to file your I-130 petition. If you are filing a different petition, check the filing instructions to make sure you pay the correct fee.
- Once your Form I-130 is approved, you’ll pay a separate fee to file your I-485. For most applicants, the fee is $1140, plus an $85 biometrics fee.
- If you’re under 14 and filing with one of your parents’ I-485s, you’ll pay $750; if you’re under 14 and filing on your own, you’ll pay the full $1140.
- Both the filing fee and the biometrics fee are waived completely if you’re filing Form I-485 as a refugee.
How Much Is USCIS Planning To Increase Fees In 2023?
Earlier this year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced plans to increase filing costs for most visa application types, including marriage green cards and those adjusting status to green cards. The proposed fees are not yet in effect, but Boundless is tracking all government updates closely.
The government filing fees for a marriage green card could increase significantly as soon as May 2023. To avoid the higher fees, it’s important to file your application before the rule goes into effect. Learn more about what Boundless can do to help.
Check out our USCIS fees guide for a full breakdown of the expected costs as well as updates on the government’s proposal.
Adjustment of Status Timeline
The adjustment of status timeline varies depending on the type of application being filed and other variables. Getting a green card through AOS can be a slow process, and the exact timeline for Adjustment of Status will depend on your situation. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) releases processing times each quarter for all forms. However, for more current processing times, boundless analyzes USCIS data monthly by field office.
A few of the most common adjustment of status timelines based on our internal tracking are described below.
AOS Marriage Green Card Timeline
The current processing times for adjustment of status after marriage are 12.5–20.5 months for the spouse of a U.S. citizen and 12.5–22.5 months for the spouse of a U.S. green card holder.
Boundless has put together a detailed guide about adjustment of status processing times for a marriage green card.
K1 to AOS Timeline
The time it takes to get a marriage green card from when your K-1 visa is approved is 12.5–20.5 months, but it could be longer depending on your situation. Currently, the timeline for K-1 Fiance Visa approvals is 14.5, which makes the overall timeline much longer than it was historically.
For AOS processing times for other visa types, this handy USCIS tool allows you to check estimated times by form type.
What Are the Requirements for Adjustment of Status?
To use AOS you must be eligible for a green card in one of the following categories:
- Family: You can qualify for a family-based green card as the spouse, child, parent, or another close relative of a U.S. citizen or green card holder.
- Employment: You can qualify for an employment-based green card through sponsorship by your employer, or based on your own accomplishments and abilities.
- Other: You can qualify for a green card on humanitarian grounds, through the diversity lottery, or for other reasons.
Learn more about the different types of green cards.
More specifically, adjustment of status is the immigration process for the following marriage visa types:
- IR6/CR6 spouse and accompanying IR7/CR7 child when the sponsor is a U.S. citizen
- F2A category (F26 spouse; F27 child) when the sponsor is a legal permanent resident (aka green card holder)
- CF1 spouse; CF2 child when the sponsor is a U.S. citizen and the foreign spouse is adjusting status from a K fiancé visa
Other Adjustment of Status Requirements
To use AOS, you must have used a valid visa or the Visa Waiver Program for your most recent entry to the United States. Most applicants must be in lawful status when they first apply for Adjustment of Status, even if their visa later expires before the process is complete.
One exception is if you are applying for Adjustment of Status through marriage to a U.S. citizen. In these cases, you can use AOS even if you overstayed on a visa, as long as you originally entered the United States with a valid visa or visa waiver.
If you’re applying for adjustment of status as the spouse or immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, there is no cap on green cards for you. However, if you’re applying as a more distant relative (called “family preference”), or if your sponsor is a green card holder, you could face a long wait. You can check your priority date to see when you might be able to apply.
If you’re applying for a green card through employment or other grounds, you could also face a wait before a green card becomes available. Check the latest Visa Bulletin for more information on what kind of timeline you can expect.
IMPORTANT UPDATE FOR SPOUSES OF GREEN CARD HOLDERS (March 24, 2023):
The April 2023 Visa Bulletin saw a significant change to the F-2A family-based category (for spouses of U.S. green card holders). Due to a growing backlog of cases in this category, the “Final Action Dates” for F-2A applications are no longer “current” for the first time in several years. *“Final Action Dates” refer to applications whose priority dates have reached the front of the line and can now be reviewed by USCIS.
Although the “Final Action Dates” are no longer current, the “Dates for Filing” are still current, meaning spouses of green card holders can still file their adjustment of status applications. Even though spouses of green card holders can still apply, their Form I-485s will NOT be reviewed until their priority date is current. For Mexican applicants, the priority date has dropped back to November 1, 2018, and for all other applicants, to September 8, 2020. This change is likely to significantly increase processing times for spouses of green card holders. Stay tuned for any additional updates on our monthly Visa Bulletin report.
Understanding the 90-day rule
If you’re eligible for a green card and in lawful status, you’ll still need to be careful not to trigger the 90-day rule. This is a guideline that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses to determine whether AOS applicants misrepresented their intentions when they first arrived in the United States.
Many temporary visas, such as the F-1 or B2 and B1 visas, can’t be used if you plan to immigrate permanently. By contrast, other temporary visas such as H-1B or L-1 allow “dual intent,” and can be used even if you plan to move permanently to the United States.
If you’re on a visa that doesn’t allow dual intent, you could run into trouble when you apply for AOS, since it shows that you intend to immigrate permanently. The U.S. government could reject your application or revoke your current visa if they decide you secretly planned to immigrate when you first entered the United States.
To make that determination, the USCIS official handling your case will apply the 90-day rule, a guideline that allows officers to infer that you misrepresented your intentions if you adjust your status within 90 days of arriving in the United States.
It’s possible to convince the USCIS officer that you genuinely didn’t intend to immigrate when you first arrived, but you’ll have to offer evidence and will face an uphill struggle.
Even after 90 days, USCIS officers can use their own judgment to determine that you misrepresented your intentions. Still, you’re much less likely to have problems if you wait until more than 90 days have passed before filing an AOS application.
U.S. Immigration can be complex and confusing. Boundless is here to help. Learn more about what Boundless can do to help.
How to Check the Status of Your AOS Application
You can check for updates on your green card application by entering your case number on the USCIS website. This will provide you with information and updates throughout your green card application, including when the green card has been approved.
With Boundless, you get the peace of mind that comes with having an independent immigration attorney who answers your confidential questions and reviews your entire green card application — for no additional fee. Learn more.
What Happens After a Change of Status?
The exciting day arrives and you receive your green card in the mail. Congratulations! You can now work and live freely across the United States, travel overseas and return, and benefit from a pathway to eventual U.S. citizenship.
If you changed your status through marriage and were recently married, you might receive a conditional green card good for two years. You’ll have to upgrade this to a full 10-year green card as you near the end of the 2-year period.
Depending on your green card type, you might be able to apply for citizenship once you’ve been a green card holder for 3–5 years. To be eligible for citizenship, you must pay your taxes, not be convicted of a crime, and not leave the United States for extended periods without a reentry permit.
Be careful with foreign travel. If you leave the United States during the AOS process, the U.S. government will assume you’ve abandoned your green card application and you’ll have to start from scratch. To avoid this, you can request an “advance parole” travel document, which will allow you to travel abroad and be readmitted to the United States without interrupting your application.
Adjustment of Status FAQs
The adjustment of status process is the process by which a foreign national who is already in the United States can apply for lawful permanent resident status (a green card). To be eligible for adjustment of status, an individual must have been inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States, must be eligible to receive an immigrant visa, and must not be inadmissible to the United States.
To be eligible for adjustment of status, an individual must have been inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States, must be eligible to receive an immigrant visa, and must not be inadmissible to the United States.
There are a number of ways to determine if you are eligible for adjustment of status. You can consult with an experienced immigration attorney or you can review the eligibility requirements on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
There are a number of benefits to adjusting your status, including being able to remain in the United States while your application is pending, being able to work in the United States without having to obtain a separate work permit, and having your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age included in your application.
The first step in adjusting your status is to file an I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) and then Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) with USCIS. This application must be accompanied by supporting documentation, including evidence that you are eligible for an immigrant visa and that you are not inadmissible to the United States.
After you file your application, USCIS will review your case to determine if you are eligible for adjustment of status. If USCIS determines that you are ineligible for adjustment of status, they may deny your application or refer your case to Immigration Court for removal proceedings. If USCIS determines that you are eligible for adjustment of status, they will schedule you for an interview at a local USCIS office.
At your interview, a USCIS officer will ask you questions about your application and your eligibility for adjustment of status. The officer may also ask you questions about your background and personal history. It is important to be honest and forthcoming during your interview, as any misrepresentations or false statements could result in your application being denied or referred for removal proceedings.
After your interview, the USCIS officer will make a decision on your case. If the officer approves your application, you will be issued a green card and will become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. If the officer denies your application, you may appeal the decision or file a motion to reopen or reconsider your case. You may also be placed in removal proceedings if the officer believes that you are ineligible for adjustment of status or if you have made false statements during your interview.
Generally, yes. If you have applied to adjust your status while in the U.S. and your application is pending, you may apply for employment authorization by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
Adjustment of status is a process used by certain foreign nationals already in the United States to apply for permanent residence. Consular processing involves applying at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad for an immigrant visa. Learn more here.
Generally, no. If you leave the United States while your application is pending, USCIS will consider that you have abandoned your application and it may be denied. However, there are some exceptions, such as if you have received permission to travel from USCIS or if there is an emergency situation that requires you to travel.