The process for applying for a green card from within the United States is called Adjustment of Status (AOS). When you use AOS, you’ll be able to stay in the United States while your application is processed, even if your visa expires before your green card is approved.
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 green card eligibility requirements are identical. You should give some thought to which process best suits your individual circumstances.
This guide will cover the rules and requirements for getting a green card through Adjustment of Status. You’ll learn about:
- Who Can Adjust Their Status?
- How to Adjust Your Status
- The Adjustment of Status Timeline
- Adjustment of Status Fee
- How to Check the Status of Your Application
- What Comes Next?
- Special Considerations
Adjusting your status is a big step. Make Boundless your trusted partner, and for a flat rate of $950 you’ll get help completing your entire green card application, including all required forms and supporting documents, independent attorney review, and support from the moment your application is filed until you receive your green card. Learn more, or check your eligibility to adjust your status today.
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 other 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.
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 such 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.
Before you can apply for AOS, you must make sure a green card is available for you. This is automatically the case if you are applying as the spouse or immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. 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.
With Boundless, you get an independent immigration attorney who will review your application and answer all of your questions about Adjustment of Status. Learn more about what you get with Boundless, or check your eligibility for a green card today.
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 B-1/B-2 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 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 up-hill struggle.
Even after 90 days, USCIS officers can use their own judgement 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.
Do you have confidential questions about how your situation might affect your green card application? With Boundless, you get an independent immigration attorney who can help you understand your options. Find out more about what you get with Boundless, or check your eligibility now.
Step 1: Check your green card eligibility.
Step 2: Have your sponsor file the appropriate petition for your green card category:
- For a family green card, you’ll need to file the I-130 form.
- For an employment-based application, you’ll file the I-140 form
- For a humanitarian application, you’ll file the I-730 form.
Step 3: 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.
Step 4: 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.
Step 5: 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.
Step 6: 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).
Step 7: 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.
Step 8: 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.
Step 9: You will eventually 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 a little later by your physical green card.
Boundless stays with you until the green card finish line, helping you keep on top of interview preparation, follow-on forms, and every other important milestone along your immigration journey. Learn more, or check your eligibility for free.
Getting a green card through AOS can be a slow process, and the exact Adjustment of Status timeline will depend on your situation. For instance, completing an Adjustment of Status through marriage can take 10–13 months if your spouse is a U.S. citizen, or 29–38 months if your spouse is a green card holder.
The Adjustment of Status processing time also varies depending on where in the United States you apply from, so make sure to check your nearest USCIS office’s processing times.
Worried that your Adjustment of Status application is taking too long? Remember, you can check your case’s status online at any time.
The best way to ensure your AOS application doesn’t get delayed is to file all your paperwork correctly the first time around. With Boundless, a dedicated team member will help you steer clear of common mistakes and make sure your forms and documents are ready for attorney review Learn more, or find out if you’re eligible for a green card.
To complete your green card application through Adjustment of Status, you’ll need to pay the appropriate fees.
You’ll first have to pay any fees associated with your initial petition. For an adjustment of status through marriage, you’ll typically pay $535 to file your I-130 petition. If you’re filing a different petition, check the filing instructions to make sure you pay the correct fee.
Once your petition is approved, you’ll pay a separate fee to file your I-485 green card application. For most applicants, the fee is $1,140, plus an $85 biometrics fee.
If you’re under 14 and filing with one of your parents’ I-485s, you’ll pay $950; if you’re under 14 and filing on your own, you’ll pay the full $1,140. The biometrics fee is waived if you’re under 14, or if you’re aged 79 or more.
Both the filing fee and the biometrics fee are waived completely if you’re filing Form I-485 as a refugee.
Immigrating to the United States can be expensive, but preparing your AOS application doesn’t have to be. For the flat rate of $950, Boundless helps you complete your entire green card application, including all required forms and supporting documents, independent attorney review, and support from the moment your application is filed until you receive your green card. Find out more, or check whether you qualify for free.
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. Ready to start? Learn more about what you get with Boundless, or check your eligibility now.
The exciting day arrives and you receive your green card in the mail. 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 completed your Adjustment of 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.
Did you recently become eligible for U.S. citizenship? Boundless makes it easy to complete your citizenship application and avoid common problems. Learn more about how Boundless can help you, or check your eligibility for a green card or naturalization without handing over any personal information.
- 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.
With Boundless, you get a professionally- assembled green card application package — including the travel permit application — arranged in the precise format the government prefers. Learn more, or check if you qualify for a marriage-based green card.