January 19, 2022

Volume XII, Number 19

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January 18, 2022

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Adjustment of Status Process: What Happens Next?

The new interview requirement for employment-based immigrants filing AOS applications raises questions about the steps and timeline for this process. This article clarifies both.

Adjustment of status (AOS) is screening for admission as a permanent resident conducted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). An adjustment of status application is filed by a beneficiary of an approved immigrant visa petition (e.g., based on a job, a qualifying family relationship, asylee or refugee approval, etc.). Applicants must have a residential address and be physically present in the United States to file an adjustment application. Adjustment applications may be filed by dependent children or spouses in the United States with the principal immigrant visa beneficiary. Dependent family members may adjust at the same time as, or any time after, the principal immigrant.

Adjustment of status petitions include Form I-485, the main adjustment application; Form I-131, Application for Travel Document; Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization; and supplemental forms and documents of support. All adjustment petitions are also filed with original photos and a medical exam completed by an USCIS-designated surgeon. The adjustment process involves USCIS investigation of an individual's identity, health, immigration history, criminal background, and ability to support him or herself in the United States.

Adjustment applications based on previously approved employment-based petitions (I-140 or I-360) must be accompanied by a Supplement J confirming the qualifying terms of employment held by the AOS applicant.

Filing and Receipt

Most adjustment of status applications are filed at a USCIS Lockbox facility and are then sent to the appropriate Service Center after receipt. Within one to three weeks following receipt of the petition, USCIS will mail receipt notices (Form I-797C, Notice of Action) for each form filed. Applicants should note that these notices do not grant any immigration status or benefit—they are simply an indication that USCIS has received the application and is now processing the case. The personal information on the receipt notices should be checked over for accuracy. Applicants may use the individual receipt number, located in the upper left hand corner of each receipt notice, to check the status of that particular form online on the USCIS Case Status page. This webpage also provides general processing times for particular forms at each Service Center.

ASC Appointment Notice

Anywhere between a few days to a few months after receipt, USCIS schedules a biometrics appointment at an Application Support Center (ASC). Applicants should bring the original ASC appointment notice and a photo ID to this appointment, at which USCIS will capture fingerprints, record the applicant's signature, and take photos. Applicants should read the appointment notice for important instructions and the complete address, date, and time of the appointment.

Although applicants are not able to pick the date and time of the appointment, it will be located at the closest ASC to the home address on file. Typically, the notices are sent at least two weeks before the scheduled appointment. If the applicant cannot make the initial appointment time, he/she must reschedule to avoid abandoning the petition.

Travel and Employment Authorization

As part of the adjustment filing, Forms I-131 and I-765, Applications for Travel Document (Advance Parole) and Employment Authorization, are also filed. Each form takes approximately 60 to 90 days to approve and the forms are typically approved simultaneously. Upon approval, the applicant is mailed Form I-766 with I-512 endorsement, also known as a “combo card,” which permits work and travel while Form I-485 is pending. This combo card is valid for one year and covers employment by any employer and multiple travel trips. On occasion, the forms are adjudicated separately and USCIS issues separate work (Employment Authorization Document or “EAD”) and travel (Advance Parole) authorization.

Other than an H-1B or L visa holder, a person who has filed an adjustment application cannot leave the United States without approval of Advance Parole, or the application is effectively canceled. Individuals in H-1B (and their dependents in H-4) and L status can freely travel on their H-1B (and dependent H-4) and L visas during the entire adjustment process, as long as they continue to maintain that status.

Applicants should note that, while travel and employment authorization is generally granted before the adjustment application is approved, USCIS, on occasion, processes adjustments in less than three months and, therefore, will approve and mail a green card before Forms I-131 and I-765 are approved. In this case, the applicant will likely receive a denial notice for work and travel authorization because he/she is no longer eligible upon approval of permanent resident status. This denial has no negative consequences; it simply means that the separate permit is not required once a green card is received.

CAUTION: An AOS applicant may be barred from returning to the United States even with an approved Advance Parole document. Please consult an immigration attorney prior to leaving the United States.

Interview

Since September 2017, interviews are required for AOS applicants who filed employment-based applications after March 2017. Interviews are also normally required for adjustment applicants who: a) applied based on certain family relationships; b) are diversity lottery candidates; c) have failed to maintain legal nonimmigrant status; or d) have a prior arrest or criminal conviction.

The timing of an interview depends on the district office that is conducting it. Initial interviews are typically scheduled between three and ten months after receipt of the application. To check current processing times, select the appropriate field office from the drop-down menu on the USCIS webpage. The interview notices are usually sent at least three to four weeks before the interview. Applicants must bring the original Interview Notice, along with originals of any documents submitted in the petition, to the interview. Those applying based on a marriage should bring additional photos or other evidence of a bona fide relationship. Those applying based on a marriage or any other relative must bring the sponsoring relative with them. The notice will list the appropriate documents to bring.

If scheduled, the applicant must appear for this interview. In the event that the appointment cannot be kept, he/she should reschedule the interview. If a last-minute emergency precludes the applicant from attending the interview, he/she should call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. It is important to read the entire notice and follow all instructions to avoid the denial of the application.

Additional security checks and clearances may be done post-interview. These generally do not delay the approval more than a few days, but could delay approval for a longer period of time if there are significant security clearance issues.

Result

From the time of approval or the time of the successful interview, it typically takes one to twelve weeks to manufacture and mail Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card, most commonly known as the “green card.”

While the green card is being produced, the applicant may obtain a stamp in his/her passport saying “Processed for I-551. Temporary evidence of lawful admission for permanent residence... employment authorized.” This stamp indicates permanent resident status and is the equivalent of a green card. The stamp is usually valid for one year and confers all the benefits of permanent resident status, including unlimited work authorization and travel flexibility.

If the application was based on a marriage and the couple has been married for less than two years at the time of approval, the applicant receives a Conditional Permanent Resident Card that is valid for two years and must file Form I-751 within the 90 days prior to the expiration of the card to remove the conditions. As long as all other USCIS requirements are met, the permanent resident can apply for naturalization after three years.

If the application was based on an approved I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, the applicant receives a Conditional Permanent Resident Card that is valid for two years and must file Form I-829 within the 90 days prior to the expiration of the card to remove the conditions. As long as all other USCIS requirements are met, the permanent resident can apply for naturalization after five years.

If the application was based on anything other than a marriage or an investment, the applicant receives a Permanent Resident Card that is valid for ten years and has the option to apply for naturalization after five years, if all other conditions are met.

Social Security Cards and Driver’s Licenses

After Form I-765 has been approved and the applicant has received Form I-766 (combo card/work authorization card), he/she is eligible to apply for a U.S. Social Security number. For those applying for the first time, this must be done in person at a Social Security office. Applicants must bring their work authorization card and another form of identification, and additional immigration documents in some cases. More information on applying for a Social Security number and card can be found on the Social Security Administration website. The Social Security card may contain language that the card is valid for employment only with additional work authorization. After the green card has been received, the applicant can receive a new copy of his/her Social Security card without this limiting language.

Driver’s license applications vary by state. In most cases, the applicant must present a Social Security card, work authorization card or green card, identity documents, and proof of residency. Driving preparation and testing also varies. Applicants should check with their local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for more information.

Document

When to expect (average)

Receipt

1-3 weeks after filing

ASC Appointment Notice

1-8 weeks after filing

Work and travel authorization

2-3 months after filing

Initial Interview Notice

3-12 months after filing (if interview is required)

Green card received

1-12 weeks after interview (if interview was required)

4-16 months after filing (if interview was not required)

Important Reminders

  • The processing times above are an estimate. Applicants can check the most recent processing times online on the USCIS Case Status page.

  • If USCIS requires more information about the case, they will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE). This RFE must be filed by a specified date and typically asks for more extensive proof or documentation for a certain part of the application. Note that an RFE will extend the timetable for an applicant's green card approval.

  • Applicants should not make international travel plans (including to Canada and Mexico) for two to three months after filing the application. Unless the applicant is in valid H or L status, leaving the country before gaining Advance Parole will cancel the application.

  • All non-U.S. citizens over 14 years old and remaining in the United States for more than 30 days are required to report a change of address by filing form AR-11 within 10 days of such a change. If an applicant moves while his/her AOS application is pending, the address can be changed online via the USCIS website. Applicants should complete a separate form for each application that is still pending (I-485, I-131, I-765).

© Copyright 2013 - 2022 Miller Mayer LLP. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume VII, Number 299
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About this Author

Hilary T. Fraser, Miller Mayer, work authorizations attorney, immigration benefits Lawyer
Partner

Hilary T. Fraser has practiced immigration law at Miller Mayer since 1991.

Ms. Fraser represents EB-5 families, physicians, engineers, teachers, and other highly trained professionals, as well as hospitals, colleges, IT companies, and religious organizations, in pursuit of work authorizations and other immigration benefits. Ms. Fraser has presented at national conferences on immigration office staffing and U.S. immigration agency practice. Prior to law school, Ms. Fraser lived in China and New York City, where she worked as a teacher and writer...

607-273-4200
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