As a legal citizen of another country, you typically need a visa to enter the United States. People come into the country for reasons ranging from visiting family and pursuing an education to career development. No matter what kind of visa allowed you to enter the country, you may eventually determine that you would like to stay here.
Unfortunately, most visa programs have an expiration date. The visa will only last for so long, and the person who holds the visa can only reapply for an extension of the same visa a limited number of times. Eventually, you will either need to become a permanent resident of the United States or leave the country.
Becoming a permanent resident is a process people sometimes call getting your Green Card. One of the most important steps in that process is adjusting your status.
How adjustment of status works
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) keeps records of all documented immigrants traveling and living in the United States. When you no longer want to be someone visiting the country on a limited visa but rather someone with the right to live and work here permanently, the USCIS has to adjust your status.
You begin the process by submitting a form to the USCIS. If you are eligible for a Green Card, you submit Form I-485 to the USCIS. You will then have to attend a biometrics services appointment. This allows USCIS to obtain information on your signature, fingerprints and appearance. Some applicants will have to attend an interview or submit additional paperwork.
If your application is successful, you will receive an approval, followed by the physical Permanent Resident Card or Green Card. At that point, you will have the rights of a legal permanent resident of the United States.
Whether you hope to live here indefinitely or plan to become a citizen, adjusting your status is a crucial step. Getting a Green Card makes it easier for you to stay in the United States, start a business here or otherwise pursue your career. It can also put you in a position to help other people whom you love to enter or stay in the country.