Immigration Quiz

Navigating the Green Card Application Process

Embarking on the journey toward permanent residency in the United States is a significant step, and Sapochnick Law Firm is here to guide you through each phase of applying for your green card.

Once United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves your visa petition, whether it's been filed by a family member, fiancé, or employer, the next step is determining where to submit your green card application.

(For individuals uncertain about the visa petition process or if one is necessary for your situation, our First Step for Family and Employment Green Cards article offers valuable information. It's worth noting that refugees and political asylees are typically exempt from the visa petition requirement and may pursue a green card after one year of status.)

While the majority of applicants must process their green card applications through U.S. embassies and consulates outside the U.S., some individuals prefer—or require—the convenience of filing domestically with USCIS. However, the ability to apply from within the U.S. depends on various factors.

Eligibility for Domestic Green Card Applications

The privilege of filing a green card application at a USCIS office within the United States is distinct to specific applicant categories. Primarily, this opportunity is reserved for individuals who have lawfully entered the United States and respected the terms of their I-94 admission record.

Significantly, those who are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, such as spouses, may have additional leniency. Provided they entered the country legally, these individuals can typically apply for adjustment within the U.S., even if they have overstayed.

However, for many, especially those who have entered without inspection or overstayed their visa, applying domestically could trigger removal proceedings. These individuals are strongly advised to consult with our experienced team at Sapochnick Law Firm.

Domestic Adjustment of Status Process

To adjust your status within the United States, you must complete the "adjustment of status" procedure. This involves obtaining a packet of forms from your nearest USCIS office or downloading the requisite documents from the USCIS website. Note that submission of these forms often requires certain fees.

Additionally, applicants are expected to provide photos and various supporting documents, which may include proof of visa petition approval, employer confirmation of job availability, birth certificates, and specific passport pages, among other things. The exact requirements will vary depending on the category under which you are applying.

Once you have compiled and submitted your application package to a USCIS service center, there will be several stages, including biometrics appointments and interviews. If all goes well, your green card approval will be finalized at your interview, with the physical green card arriving via mail after a few months.

Applying from Abroad

When ready to proceed from outside the U.S., the National Visa Center (NVC) will coordinate with you (and your petitioner). Following initial form submissions and visa fee payments, the NVC will transfer your case to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate.

Please be aware that applying through an embassy or consulate other than your country of residence is generally not permitted unless exceptional circumstances are demonstrated.

The consulate will provide instructions for additional paperwork, your interview, medical examinations, and photograph requirements. Documentation requirements at the interview will vary by category but may include your passport, police clearances, birth and marriage certificates, etc.

Post-interview, if approved, your passport will be stamped with an immigrant visa, which you must use to enter the U.S. and claim permanent residency status within six months. Like with the domestic process, your green card will be mailed to you after your arrival.

In-Depth Guidance for Your Green Card Application

Understanding the intricate steps of the green card application process can be daunting; therefore, knowing which forms to file and the appropriate documents to provide at your interview is essential.

For personalized support navigating the green card application process, contact Sapochnick Law Firm at 619.819.9204. Our team is committed to providing you with the professional guidance you need to achieve your dream of becoming a U.S. permanent resident.

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