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Status adjustment is difficult but worth it

If you hold a temporary, nonimmigrant status in the United States, you might consider becoming a permanent resident, or green card holder. Being a permanent resident opens many opportunities for you. You could live and work in the United States, and you will have the privilege of sponsoring family members who might wish to immigrate.

Paperwork and more paperwork

There's no question that the change of status procedure is difficult and frustrating. Depending on the reason you have decided to apply for a green card, you will fall into one of several general categories with its own set of forms and requirements, including:

  • Family petition: Your relative who is a citizen or a green card holder files Form I-130.
  • Employer petition: Your employer in the U.S. files a Form I-140.
  • Special petition: Numerous circumstances could allow you to petition using a Form I-360, for example, if you are an abused family member of a U.S. citizen, member of the armed forces, or a foreign national who worked for the U.S. government.
  • Humanitarian petition: If your country has suffered a disaster or other emergency, you may qualify for humanitarian immigration.

Once you have determined which petition to file, you must submit a Form I-485, which is your application to adjust your status to permanent resident. In some cases, you can file the I-485 when you file your petition, but other categories require you to have your petition approved before you can submit the I-485.

The next steps to follow

In most circumstances, a limited number of visas is available each year. This may mean that you will have to wait until one becomes available before you can file your I-485. After you submit your application, you will receive notification of when and where to go for collection of your photograph, fingerprints and signature. You may also be called for an interview where agents will ask questions to confirm the information on your application.

Then you wait while authorities process your application and conduct your background check. When the review is complete, you will receive a notice in the mail whether immigration authorities have denied or accepted your petition.

Don't take chances by going it alone

You may have decided to stay in the United States for any number of reasons. No matter the reason, the process ahead of you can be delicate and complex. In some cases, for example, the I-485 is not the appropriate form to file. If you make a mistake in the paperwork or miss a deadline, you may lengthen an already long wait.

Having a dedicated immigration attorney to assist you may be your best option. An attorney who has worked successfully with many people seeking visas and green cards will be able to guide you through the process smoothly.

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