Adjustment of Status
For most individuals who are pursuing an application for Lawful Permanent Resident status who are present in the United States, filing an I-485 Adjustment of Status application is the last step in their green card application process. The I-485 application is required for individuals pursuing permanent resident status based on employment-based (I-140) and family-based (I-130) immigrant petitions.
The Adjustment of Status Process for employment-based applicants
All employment (I-140)-based adjustment of status (“I-485”) applications must be filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") Service Center having jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of domicile in the United States. Current processing times for the Service Centers can range from four to nine months. All family (I-130)-based adjustment of status applications must by filed with the Chicago Lockbox of the USCIS. These applications are typically processed in a few months.
The Service Centers will normally grant work authorization to applicants and their family members whose I-485 applications are pending for adjudication. If the applicant’s nonimmigrant petition is about to expire and the Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”) has not yet been issued, the USCIS will allow an extension of the H or L nonimmigrant status to be filed, if such an extension is available given the maximum time allowed in H/L status, despite the filing of an application for adjustment of status.
While an I-485 application is pending with the USCIS, the applicant’s ability to travel outside the United States might be limited. If the applicant must travel, he or she must be in possession of a valid advance parole issued by the Service Center, unless the applicant has a valid H or L visa stamp in the passport. When the I-485 application is approved, the applicant will receive his or her permanent resident (“green card”) in the mail.
Exception for H and L Nonimmigrants
USCIS regulations that became effective on July 1, 1999 permit applicants for adjustment of status who hold valid, multiple entry H/L visas to travel on those visas while the adjustment applications are pending without the need to apply for advance parole authorization, provided that they do not violate their status as H-1B or L-1 (or dependent) immigrants. This means that they must not have used advance parole authorization to travel, or used an EAD to accept employment from an employer other than their H/L employer.