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Adjustment of Status

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and certain other Federal laws provide many different ways to adjust status to that of a lawful permanent resident. This is often informally referred to as applying for a “green card.”

The eligibility requirements for adjustment of status may vary depending on the immigrant category you are applying under. Furthermore, you must be physically present in the United States to file this application.

You may apply as the person who directly qualifies for an immigrant category (“principal applicant”) or, in some cases, as a family member of the principal applicant (“derivative applicant”). Whether you are a principal or derivative applicant, you must file your own Form I-485.

  1. Principal Applicant


The principal applicant is usually the individual named as the beneficiary of an immigrant petition or who is otherwise qualified to adjust status. A principal applicant must designate which immigrant category he or she is applying under.

Each category has specific requirements for adjustment of status.


  1. Derivative Applicant (files based on a principal applicant)


A principal applicant’s spouse and children, who are not beneficiaries of their own immigrant petition, may be eligible to apply for adjustment under the same immigrant category as the principal applicant. These family members are called “derivative applicants.” A derivative applicant must designate which immigrant category he or she is applying under.

Some immigrant categories do not allow for derivative applicants, while a few categories allow additional family members to apply as derivative applicants.


Bars to Adjustment of Status

You are generally ineligible for adjustment of status if one or more adjustment bars in INA apply to you. However, adjustment bars do not apply to every type of immigrant category and your category might exempt you from certain adjustment bars. For example, certain adjustment bars do not apply to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)-based applicants, or certain special immigrants. In addition, some employment-based applicants might be eligible for an exemption to some adjustment bars.

Exception Under INA section 245(i)

You may be able to adjust status under INA section 245(i) even if you are subject to one or more adjustment bars and are therefore ineligible for adjustment of status under INA section 245(a).

INA section 245(i) is not an immigrant category by itself. In order to adjust status using INA section 245(i), you must be eligible for an immigrant visa under a family-based, employment-based, special immigrant, or Diversity Visa category.


Grounds of Inadmissibility

Immigration laws specify acts, conditions, and conduct that can make foreign nationals ineligible for lawful permanent resident status. These acts, conditions, and conduct are outlined in INA section 212(a) and are called grounds of inadmissibility.

You are inadmissible to the United States and may not adjust status to a lawful permanent resident if you fall under one or more of the grounds of inadmissibility that apply to your immigrant category. Depending on your immigrant category, some grounds may not apply to you.

If you are inadmissible, you may be eligible for a waiver of the ground of inadmissibility or another form of relief. If your waiver application or other form of relief is granted, your application to adjust status may be approved.

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