As you go through the process of becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States, you go through several statuses. When you first arrive in the United States, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services considers you as a non-immigrant or parolee (temporary). Once you go through the admissions and inspection process, you could become eligible for the "adjustment of status" process whereby you become a permanent resident (obtain your green card).
How do I obtain permanent resident status?
When you wish to apply for permanent residency (your green card), you must first determine the category under which you fall.
· Employment: If you work in the United States, your employer must file a Petition for Alien Worker on your behalf. In many cases, the filing of your Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status happens at the same time. This is considered a "concurrent filing."
· Family: A relative who resides in the United States as either a permanent resident or U.S. citizen files a Petition for Alien Relative on your behalf. Again, the filing of your Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status could happen concurrently if filed by an immediate relative.
· Special classes of immigrants: You would file a Petition for Amerasian Widow(er) or Special immigrant if you fall under this category.
· Humanitarian programs: If you entered the United States under a humanitarian program, you do so without an additional petition. However, you might need to meet additional requirements not needed by others.
Individuals with certain visas might also file an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status concurrently. Everyone else must determine status first, and then file the application.
What happens next?
Once you determine your eligibility under one of these categories, the following steps occur:
· Eligibility status: You may only file your Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status once you obtain a visa in your category.
· Application support center: At this appointment, you provide your fingerprints, signature and photograph for the required security checks and, eventually, your green card.
· Interview: Immigration officials might require you to attend an interview regarding your application. Bring all of the originals of the documentation submitted with your application.
· Decision: Once officials review all of the information regarding your desire for an adjustment of status, you will receive notification by mail of the decision.
Some exceptions exist for each of these steps, which you may qualify for, depending on the circumstances. USCIS tends to make this process seem easy, but, in fact, you could hit a snag at any step. In order to help ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible, you might benefit from involving an immigration attorney in the process to help reduce the likelihood of delays or a denial of your application.