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Adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence describes the process by which an immigrant obtains U.S. Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status while physically present in the United States. USCIS issues a permanent resident card (Form I-551) (commonly called a green card) to the successful adjustment applicant as proof of such immigrant status.

There are over 40 different ways to adjust your status to that of a lawful permanent resident.  Those eligible for adjustment typically adjust under the following categories:

  • Immediate relative of a U.S. citizen;

  • Other relative of a U.S. citizen or relative of a lawful permanent resident under a family-based preference category; 

  • Person admitted to the United States as a fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen;

  • Widow(er) of a U.S. citizen;

  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioner;

Process to become a Legal Permanent Resident

While Inside the US

The process a person applies to become a legal permanent resident will depend on whether they are inside or outside the United States.  For those inside the US, the process involves filing several applications simultaneously:

  1. The first is the I-130, Application to Petition Relative Alien.  This document will establish the relationship between the petitioner (U.S. Citizen or Green Card holder), and the beneficiary (the immigrant).

  2. Next, the I-485, Applicant for Permanent Residency.  The Green Card application is designed to understand the applicant’s past, and establish if there is anything in the applicant’s past that would prevent USCIS from granting legal permanent residence (officially called admissibility).  

  3. A separate but related form from the I-485 is the I-864, Affidavit of Support.  The Affidavit of Support is a contract between the sponsor and the U.S. Government.  Completing and signing Form I-864 makes the sponsor legally responsible to provide financially for the beneficiary instead of the beneficiary looking to federal or state government for assistance.

  4. Third, I-765, Work Authorization.  When an applicant files the Work Authorization it is meant to be issued by USCIS prior to USCIS granting the Green Card itself.  The Work Authorization grants the applicant the right to work in the United States without restrictions, and initiates the process for the Social Security Administration to issue the applicant a social security number

  5. Finally, the application for the Travel Document (form I-131) allows the applicant to travel outside the United States temporarily while the Green Card is processing with USCIS.  

While Outside the US

Immigrants who are outside of the United States and who are beneficiaries of approved immigrant petitions can apply for an immigrant visa at an overseas consular office of the U.S. Department of State. Once issued an immigrant visa, if an immigrant is found admissible, he or she may be admitted into the United States as an Legal Permanent Resident .


To adjust your status to a legal permanent resident while outside the United States, you must engage in a two step process:

  1. File the I-130, Petition for Alien Relative; and

  2. File the Immigrant Visa with the National Visa Center, called Consular Processing.  When applying for an immigrant visa through the National Visa Center, the immigrant must establish that the immigrant will be financially supported by a sponsor in the United States.  The sponsor must be a United States Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident.

  3. Upon approval of the Immigrant Visa by the National Visa Center, the immigrant will pay the Green Card fee, and the travel to the United States.  After arriving a United States point of entry, usually an airport, the immigrant will be admitted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  USCIS will send the immigrant his/her green card within a few weeks after arriving in the US.  

Rights Conferred on an individual after being granting a Legal Permanent Residence:

Lawful permanent resident (LPR) status confers several significant privileges, rights, and responsibilities that invoke a commitment to greater assimilation in the United States and offers a pathway to U.S. citizenship. These privileges, rights, and responsibilities include:

  • Living permanently in the United States, provided the LPR does not commit any actions that would make the LPR removable under immigration law;

  • Working in the United States in any legal capacity of the LPR’s qualification and choosing;

  • Being protected by all laws of the United States, including state of residence and local jurisdictions;

  • Obeying all laws of the United States and localities;

  • Filing income tax returns and reporting income to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and state tax authorities;

  • Supporting the democratic form of government of the United States;

  • Registering with the Selective Service, if male and age 18 through 25;

  • Petitioning for a spouse, unmarried children, and unmarried son(s) or daughter(s) to receive permanent residence;

  • Applying for U.S. citizenship once eligible.

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