The US government uses this process to make sure that you are a “desirable” alien, that is, you are the type of person we want living in the US. After you file your forms with the supporting documents and pay the fee, the Immigration Service will collect your fingerprints and check your background to make sure that you are not a terrorist or criminal (or a member of the communist party!) They also get a medical report to make sure you do not have a disease that can harm others.
As part of this process, the Service also makes sure that your sponsor can support you financially. If your employer is sponsoring, the employer will need to provide a letter of support. If your family is sponsoring, they will provide copies of their income tax returns. Investors need to prove that they have still invested in the US.
This screening process takes many months, sometimes a year, simply because the Service is very thorough. Your fingerprints are sent to the local police stations. Your birth records are checked against the government registry of birth in your country.
Along with these, there is a long list of questions that you must answer truthfully.
Priority Date has to be current
To be able to file for the last step to obtain your green card, your priority date must be current. The Department of State publishes a Visa Bulletin each month where they publish the cut-off date. You can sign up for the Visa Bulletin at the Department of State’s website. We are also providing a link below to make it easier for you to subscribe.
If your priority date is before the Visa Bulletin cut-off date, you can file for adjustment.
Your Priority Date is
If your priority date is not before the Visa Bulletin cut-off date, you will need to wait to file this last step till the date becomes current. Depending on who sponsored you, it may take from a few months, to over 15 years, depending on the delays for people from the country you were born in.
Our clients often times ask as to why they have to wait so long to get their green card when others get it so much faster.
There are 2 reasons for this:
(1) There are different categories under our immigration system. Some categories get preference over other ones.
(2) There are also separate quotas of how many green cards are going to be approved, for each category. Once the quota for that category for that year is filled, the rest of the cases are moved over to the quota for the next year. Each category has a separate quota. Each country has a separate quota. Then there is an overall quota of how many total green cards will be issued in one year.
Because so many people from India, China, Mexico and Philippines file every year, the queue for people in these categories is always many many years behind for these countries.
Also, note that the priority date is always current for “immediate relatives” – spouses and parents -- of US citizens, so they are in the US, they can file for adjustment as soon as they file the I-130. If they are overseas, they can start the process as soon as their I-130 is approved.
Adjustment of Status
If you are in the US, you will file for adjustment of status. You need to file many different forms to apply for adjustment and pay the government fee. Since it can take over a year for this case to be approved, you are allowed to file for a work permit, and a travel permit so you are able to work and travel while the government is processing your application.
After filing, you will be called in for fingerprinting, a process the government calls “Biometrics”. After biometrics, you simply wait. Don’t work. Don’t leave the country till you get a work/travel permit. If you leave, you just cancelled your adjustment application and you will have to file for consular processing at the US consulate. You cannot return to the US. If there is an emergency and you must leave, talk to us so we can help you get emergency travel documents.
If you are outside the US, you will get an email and paper notification letting you know that your priority date is current and that you can file for the last step. You create an account with the National Visa Center, pay their fees and start filling in their on-line forms. You also upload the documents that they ask for.
Once the NVC completes a review of your file, they will send it to your local US consulate where you will be interviewed. After the interview, (and if approved) you are allowed to enter the US with a packet that the Visa Officer gives you. Your green card arrives in the mail once you are in the US.
Family Sponsored Cases
As your lawyer, it is our job to carefully review your situation, especially if it has taken years for you to reach this stage. You need to prove that the sponsor can still afford your financial responsibility. In these years, they – or you- may have become sick, or retired. You will still need to prove to the government that your sponsor and you still have sufficient money to support you in the US. You may have had children that were born while you were waiting, or a young child may now be over 21 years.
Employment Sponsored: The most common problem that our clients come to us with is that they have stopped working for the employer who filed for their green card. You may now live in a different place, or work at a different employer, or you may have stopped working altogether.
Sometimes, our clients became out of status, or worked or travelled without the right permits, or are arrested for shop lifting, drug possession, or drunk driving. At other times, there is something else that may be even more serious.
As attorneys we routinely file for all steps of the green card process. We usually discuss the case before we start so that we can guide you through what you should be doing after we file the petition. We discuss when you will need the travel or work permit and your financial situation. If you are filing through your employer, we discuss the rules related to changing jobs, or starting your own company, if it takes several years to reach this stage.
If you, due to some reason, are now ineligible to get your green card, we help you file for waivers of whatever it is that is stopping you from getting your green card. We have helped thousands of clients file routine petitions but have also helped many file for waivers both in the US and at their US consulates.