Understanding Adjustment of Status

The US immigration system is full of complex names, acronyms, processes, and requirements. One common term a foreign national might encounter is Adjustment of Status, or AOS. AOS is a process that allows an eligible applicant to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States without having to go abroad and apply for an immigrant visa. There are many steps involved in becoming a permanent resident, and this is a key one. 


The process typically looks like this: 


  1. US Citizenship and Immigration Services must first approve an immigrant petition for you, usually filed by an employer or a family member.  
  2. An immigrant visa number must be available to you, even if you are already in the United States.
  3. If you are already in the United States, you may apply to adjust to permanent resident status (AOS) or choose consular processing of an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.  If you are outside the United States, you will be notified to go to the local U.S. consulate to complete the processing for an immigrant visa.


However, not everyone is eligible for AOS. These are the eligibility requirements for interested applicants to be aware of:


  • You must be physically present in the United States.
  • If filing for permanent residency based on family and you are not an immediate relative, your immigrant petition must be approved first.  For most employment-based petitions (EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3) and immediate relatives, you may be eligible to file to adjust your status at the same time as you file your immigrant petition. 
  • An immigrant visa number must be immediately available.  Other than immediate relatives, family-based and employment-based green card applicants are subject to numerical quotas for immigrant visas.  
  • You must not have entered the United States illegally.  
  • You must have been inspected and admitted into the United States. The USCIS considers that you have been “inspected” when you present yourself to an immigration officer at a U.S. port of entry. You are admitted when an officer informs you that you are allowed to enter the United States. As a rule, your I-94 and/or the stamp in your passport is an indication that you have been admitted. 


If you have not been admitted and inspected and you meet certain criteria, you may be eligible to adjust your status by paying an additional $1,000 fee.


What makes an applicant ineligible for AOS?


There are several scenarios that can exempt an applicant from qualifying for AOS. Here is a list of examples that may disqualify you: 


  • You entered the U.S. while you were in transit to another country without obtaining a visa
  • You entered the U.S. while you were a nonimmigrant crewman with a D visa
  • You are employed in the United States without USCIS authorization, unless you are the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen (parent, spouse, or unmarried child under 21 years old) or you are an employee of an international organization meeting certain criteria
  • You are a J-1 or J-2 exchange visitor subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement, and you have not met or been granted a waiver for this requirement
  • You have an A (diplomatic status), E (treaty trader or investor), or G (representative to international organization) nonimmigrant status, unless you waive diplomatic rights, privileges and immunities 
  • You were admitted into the United States as a visitor under the Visa Waiver Program, unless you are an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen
  • You are already a conditional permanent resident
  • You were admitted as a K-1 fiancé but did not marry the U.S. citizen who filed the petition for you. Or, you were admitted as the K-2 child of a fiancé, and your parent did not marry the U.S. citizen who filed the petition for you.


There are so many intricacies in the AOS process, it is a wise choice to seek the expertise of an immigration attorney. If you are interested in undergoing the AOS process, call our team of lawyers today for a consultation.