An immigrant is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of living and working permanently in the United States.
You must go through a multi-step process to become an immigrant. In most cases, USCIS must first approve an immigrant petition that has been filed for you (usually by an employer or relative). This includes cases based on marriage to a U.S. citizen. Then, you need to have an immigrant visa number made available to you, even if you are already in the United States. Subsequently, if you are already in the United States, you may apply for an Adjustment of Status in order to become a legal permanent resident. If you are outside of the United States, you will be instructed to proceed with consular processing, i.e. go to your local U.S. consulate to complete your processing for an immigrant visa.
Therefore, an Adjustment of Status refers to the procedure for becoming a lawful permanent resident without having to leave the United States. This should be distinguished from the traditional method of gaining permanent residence, which involves applying for an immigrant visa at a consular post abroad. In most cases, Adjustment of Status will lead to the status of the Legal Permanent Resident.
Adjustment of status is discussed at §245 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”).
According to INA §245(a), the status of an alien who was inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States may be adjusted by the Attorney General, in his discretion and under such regulations as he may prescribe, to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence if:
- the alien makes an application for such adjustment,
- the alien is eligible to receive an immigrant visa and is admissible to the United States for permanent residence, and
- an immigrant visa is immediately available to him at the time his application is filed.
Potential clients should be aware of the difference between Adjustment of Status and Change of Status. Adjustment of Status changes your status from that of a nonimmigrant to that of an immigrant (in some cases, even if you are in the U.S. illegally). Change of Status changes your nonimmigrant status to another nonimmigrant status. (For example, instead of being in the U.S. on a B-2 Visitor Visa, you can change your status and stay in the U.S. on an F-1 Student Visa).
Please consult with an experienced immigration attorney to evaluate your case and eligibility.