Change of Status From Visitor Visa to Green Card: A Brief Immigration Law Guide
While changing your status from a visitor visa to a green card can be challenging, it is possible. We can help. Contact Tadeo & Silva Immigration Attorneys today!
Author: Massiel Silva Tadeo, Founder, Tadeo & Silva
Attorney Massiel Silva Tadeo is a partner and owner at The Tadeo & Silva Law Firm. She specializes in removal (deportation) defense, family immigration, and hardship waivers. Updated on: December 02, 2022.
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Adjustment of Status From a Visitor Visa to a Green Card
A visitor or tourist visa is issued to foreign nationals who wish to visit the US temporarily. The visit could be for business (in which case a B1 visa is issued) or for tourism (in which case a B2 visa is issued).
However, temporary visa holders are subject to a lot of restrictions. They cannot study, seek employment, or remain in the US permanently. They would need to leave the US upon the expiration of their visa or risk deportation.
For those who enter the US as visitors but who cannot finish their business within the visa’s time limit, this immigration law requirement could be very burdensome. It could also be detrimental to those who, while on a visitor visa, got married to a US citizen or permanent resident.
The good news is that the law allows non-immigrants who wish to live and work in the US permanently to upgrade their immigration status and attain lawful permanent resident status if they meet the legal requirements. This process is known as ‘adjustment of status.’
If you entered the US on a non-immigrant visitor visa and you wish to remain permanently, it is important that you’re aware of the immigration requirements that you need to meet to change your status. Keep reading to learn more.
Eligibility for Adjustment of Status
You are eligible to adjust your status from a visitor visa to permanent residency if you meet the following requirements:
You Are Physically Present in the United States.
The adjustment of status process can only be utilized by individuals who are physically present in the US during the process. The entire procedure is handled internally by US immigration officials. If you wish to apply for lawful permanent residence from outside the US, you need to go through the US consulate in your home country.
You Lawfully Entered the US
Lawful entry here means that you were legally paroled or accepted into the U.S. by immigration officials. To qualify, you must have entered the US on a valid visa, with appropriate legal documentation verified by an immigration officer at the point of entry. This means that undocumented immigrants may be ineligible for the process.
How to Adjust Your Status From Visitor to Green Card Holder
Determine Your Green Card Eligibility
To initiate the process of adjusting your immigration status, you first need to determine whether you’re eligible for a green card. You are eligible for a green card/permanent residency if you fit into the green card eligibility categories, including the following:
You are an immediate relative or family member (including widow or widower)of a permanent resident or U.S. citizen.
You possess extraordinary abilities in fields such as the arts, business, sciences, education, or athletics.
You are an outstanding professor, researcher, or multinational manager who meets certain criteria.
- You are or intend to be an immigrant investor.
- You’re a victim of abuse, human trafficking, or other crimes.
- You obtained refugee or asylum status not more than a year before changing your status.
File an Immigrant Petition
Once you have determined your eligibility for a green card, you may need to file an immigrant visa petition or have it done on your behalf by a sponsor.
You can file the petition yourself if you’re applying as an immigrant investor under the Employment-Based Immigration – Immigrant Investor Program (EB-5).
In most cases, though, you’ll need a sponsor to file the necessary forms on your behalf as follows:
- If you’re adjusting your status based on a family relationship, your US citizen or permanent resident relative would need to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative on your behalf.
- If your adjustment application is employment-based, your employer would need to file Form I-140- Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker on your behalf, along with the necessary employment authorization.
- If you’re the immediate relative of an asylee or refugee, they would need to file Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, on your behalf.
Once the petition is approved and you verify that an immigrant visa is available in your category, you can proceed to apply for adjustment of status by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
However, sometimes, there’s no need to wait for an available visa before applying to adjust your status. For instance, immediate relatives of US citizens can file their immigrant petitions and adjustment of status applications concurrently.
Attend Your Biometrics Appointment
After filing the I-485 Form, the USCIS will notify you of your biometric appointment at an Application Support Center near you. If you cannot make the appointment, you’ll need to notify the USCIS and reschedule; otherwise, your application could be denied.
After your biometrics appointment, the USCIS will continue processing your application. You may receive correspondence from them scheduling you for an interview or requesting additional documents. It is crucial that you provide all that they require from you. If you’re having trouble meeting any of the requirements, you might want to consult an immigration attorney for guidance and possible alternatives.
At the end of the process, the USCIS would notify you of their decision in writing. If the application is approved, your green card will be sent to you in a short while. If your application is rejected, the USCIS will let you know why and whether you can file an appeal to challenge the decision (although the USCIS typically does not allow appeals for this process).
Errors in the application and supporting documentation are a common reason for refusals. So before you begin, it would be helpful to have an adjustment of status checklist to guide you.
How an Immigration Attorney Can Help
Immigration laws in the US are complex, yet immigrants are required to provide error-free documents for their immigration applications or risk their applications being denied. Thus, it is important to seek professional help and guidance from a top immigration lawyer in Atlanta before beginning any immigration process, including adjustment of status.
Your attorney can ensure you’re on the right side of the law with your application and help you liaise with the USCIS if necessary.
If your application is denied, a green card lawyer can also help you file a motion to reconsider with the USCIS. Having a lawyer by your side can significantly improve your chances of successfully adjusting your immigration status and obtaining a green card. Consider speaking with one today.
If you have further questions about changing your visa status as a visitor, family-based immigration, applying for an IR6 green card, or any other immigration process, contact Tadeo & Silva Immigration Attorneys.
At our law firm, we recognize the challenges that immigrants face and are committed to providing legal services and support to help make the process go smoothly. Contact us, and let us help you get settled here.
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