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What is adjustment of status, and what are the steps in the process?

Under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, there are two avenues for immigrants to acquire status as a permanent resident. One avenue, known as consular processing, allows those outside the United States to acquire a visa overseas which allows them to come to the United States as a permanent resident.

Adjustment of status refers to the process by which immigrants who are already in the United States can change from nonimmigrant or parolee status over to permanent resident status. To pursue the process, an immigrant must already be in the United States and must be eligible. 

Eligibility for adjustment of status can be acquired in different ways. In many cases, it occurs when a family member or employer files a petition on the immigrant's behalf. In other cases, eligibility is based on refugee or asylum status. There are other grounds for eligibility as well. Once an immigrant becomes eligible for permanent residency, a petition must be filed prior to filling out an application for permanent residency or adjustment of status, at least in most cases. In some cases, it is possible to file a petition at the same time the application is filed.

Other steps in the process include obtaining a picture and fingerprint, security checks, and in some cases an interview. The purpose of the interview would be to verify information provided in the application.

Not every case in which an immigrant applies for an adjustment of status is successful, and it is important for immigrants who have received a denial of permanent residency to know that they can appeal a negative decision in some cases. If an immigrant chooses to appeal a negative decision, it is important to do so within the time periods specified by statute and with the help of an experienced advocate who can help ensure that the immigrant's interests are zealously advocated and that the immigration process is properly carried. 

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