Aliens residing in California may be eligible to “adjust status” to legal permanent residence (LPR) without leaving the U.S. Adjustment of status is only available to immigrants who are (1) qualified to get a green card, and (2) on U.S. soil. Non-citizens who wish to get green cards while outside of the U.S. instead have to go through “consular processing.”
In this article, our California immigration attorneys answer frequently-asked questions about adjusting status to LPR while staying in California. Click on a topic to go directly to that section.
- 1. What does it mean to “adjust status”?
- 2. Can I adjust my status in California?
- 3. How do I apply to “adjust status” in California?
- 4. When can I “adjust status”?
- 5. Can I “adjust status” by marrying a U.S. citizen?
- 6. What if I am eligible for a green card but am not eligible to “adjust status”?
- 7. Why would I be denied “adjustment of status”?
- 8. Can I “adjust status” if I am not in the U.S.?
- 9. How long does it take to “adjust status” in California?
- 10. What do I have to pay to “adjust status”?
1. What does it mean to “adjust status”?
When aliens “adjust status,” they change from being a visa-holder to a green card-holder. Once aliens have a green card, they are considered legal permanent residents.1
2. Can I adjust my status in California?
Whether foreigners are eligible to adjust status turns on the terms of their immigrant visa. In general, the four requirements for adjusting status are:
- the alien has entered the U.S. lawfully;
- the alien is present in the U.S. lawfully;
- the alien has followed all the terms of his/her visa; and
- the alien is qualified to get a green card.
In rare situations, illegal aliens may still be able to adjust status. One example is employment-based immigrant visa-holders who overstayed their visa for no more than 180 days.
3. How do I apply to “adjust status” in California?
The first step is to complete Form I-485 and Form I-94 and submit them to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The foreigner will then receive information on what to do next, which usually involves the following:
- giving fingerprints, also called “biometrics”,
- taking a medical exam (except if the alien is refugee, asylee, or fiancé(e) visa-holder), and
- having an interview at one of California’s 11 USCIS offices
Depending on their visa type, foreigners may need to submit supporting documents to the USCIS to adjust status. For example, work-based visa-holders usually need to get a letter from their employer. And fiancé(e) visa-holders have to produce a copy of their marriage certificate.2
4. When can I “adjust status”?
It completely depends on the terms of the foreigner’s visa. For instance, refugees cannot adjust status until they have lived in the U.S. for a year. People on fiancé(e) visas may not adjust status unless they get married within 90 days of arriving in the U.S. And workers on H-1B visas are only eligible to adjust status if their employers agree to sponsor them.3
5. Can I “adjust status” by marrying a U.S. citizen?
It depends. Foreigners who entered the U.S. illegally are ineligible to adjust status, even if they are married to a U.S. citizen. But foreigner spouses who did come into the U.S. lawfully (such as on a visa) should be eligible to adjust status.4
6. What if I am eligible for a green card but am not eligible to “adjust status”?
One possibility is that the foreigner leave the U.S. so he/she can pursue “consular processing” in his/her home country. However, the foreigner risks not being able to return to the U.S. In this situation, non-citizens are strongly encouraged to enlist the help of an immigration attorney.5
7. Why would I be denied “adjustment of status”?
The USCIS has discretion over whether a foreigner may adjust status. When the USCIS denies status, it is usually because it believes the alien has “negative factors.” Common ones are that the alien had lived in the U.S. illegally or demonstrates a lack of good moral character.6
8. Can I “adjust status” if I am not in the U.S.?
Never. Non-citizens who are overseas can only pursue green cards through consular processing.7
9. How long does it take to “adjust status” in California?
It varies, but usually four months to a year.8
10. What do I have to pay to “adjust status”?
The fee schedule from the USCIS website is as follows:
Call a California immigration attorney…
If you or a loved one is hoping to adjust status in California, call our Los Angeles immigration attorneys for a free consultation. We will do everything to make the process as quick and easy and possible in pursuit of achieving legal permanent residence for you and your family.
Learn about adjustment of status in Nevada.