The final step in getting permanent residence, or "a green card" as it is commonly called, is for the scholar to file for permanent residence. This part of the application is between the individual, CIS, and the U.S. Department of State. The final step can be done while the scholar is inside the U.S., in which case it is referred to as Adjustment of Status, or when the scholar is outside the U.S., referred to as Consular Processing. The Office of Global Services acts as a resource for information on this phase of attaining permanent residence. Our information is generic and does not take the place of legal counsel. We request all scholars for whom an I-140 is filed to have a personal appointment to discuss the final phase in applying for a green card. If the scholar has a complex or unusual case, retaining a competent immigration attorney for this portion of the application is advisable. The Office of Global Services can provide referrals to immigration attorneys in the metropolitan region. The Office of Global Services will discuss this option with scholars at the time of filing the I-140.
If a scholar is in the U.S. in a nonimmigrant status, s/he may apply for permanent residence by filing form I-485 (Adjustment of Status) with CIS. This can be done concurrently with submission of the I-140, while the I-140 is pending, or after it is approved.
The I-485 is the primary form for Adjustment of Status but the application requires many other supporting forms and documents, including a medical form that requires a physical exam and signature by a CIS-approved physician (civil surgeon). Each family member should submit an I-485 and supporting documents as well. All CIS forms associated with Adjustment of Status can be downloaded from the CIS web site. The I-485 must be submitted with the appropriate fee of $1070 (age 14 or older, effective 11/23/2010) or $635 (under age 14). The fee includes the cost of biometrics and accompanying work and travel permissions.
Within a couple weeks of submission of an I-485, an applicant will be notified to visit a Department of Homeland Security office in New York City to have biometrics taken.
Processing time for Adjustment of Status varies widely, but most applicants get their green cards within 6 -24 months of submission of the I-485.
In some cases, it may be faster for a scholar to exit the U.S. and apply for permanent residence at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the home country. This can be expensive, complex and inconvenient, but it may be faster. Scholars interested in this option should consult a competent immigration attorney. The Office of Global Services can make referrals if necessary.