The most common ways for an alien to obtain a green card are through employment or marriage to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse. Applicants who are living outside the US must complete the green card process through their local US Embassy or Consulate. However, certain applicants currently living in the US can use the Adjustment of Status process.
Who can apply for adjustment of status?
There are generally three categories of aliens who can adjust status in the US: those who are married to United States citizens and entered legally, whether or not they have overstayed their non-immigrant visa; those lucky enough to have visas currently available to them (including via employment immigration or spouses of lawful permanent residents), who entered legally and have not been unlawfully present and have not worked illegally; and those protected by section 245(i) of the INA. Immigrants who entered on a fiance visa (K1 visa) and subsequently married their US citizen petitioner within 90 days of entry can also adjust status in America.
Green card applicants wishing to complete the process in the US must file certain forms, including I-485. It could take six months or more to obtain a green card; the process may include an adjustment of status (green card) interview, medical exam, and background check. Those hoping to work or travel during the period when their green card application is processing should also apply for EAD (work permit) and advance parole (travel permit). Note: not all applicants will qualify for the work/travel permit and the advance parole does not guarantee re-entry into the United States. It also does not cure a prior overstay.
Those spouses who adjust status based upon a marriage that is less than two years old when the green card is issued will receive a conditional green card, which is only valid for two years from the date of issue. They will be required to apply for a permanent green card (renewed every 10 years) prior to the expiration date of the conditional green card and show evidence that the marriage was bona fide (real) and not entered into to evade immigration laws. This process is called removal of conditions.