Adjustment of Status –Help your Spouse become a Permanent Resident

Hanes & Bartels July 18, 2014

Adjustment of Status is a type of case we handle often: a US citizen wants to apply for a green card for his/her husband or wife who is already living here in the United States. The easiest way to do this is through a process called Adjustment of Status using the form I-485.

Adjustment of Status is possible if the immigrant spouse entered the United States legally – in other words, they showed a passport, visa, Border Crossing card, or other proper documentation at a US land border or an international airport when they were “admitted” to the United States.

In cases where the immigrant spouse entered the United States illegally, Adjustment of Status is usually not an option (except for military families). For more information on those cases, please see my other blog posts on the “waiver” processes (I-601 and I-601A).

Normally, at the successful conclusion of the Adjustment of Status process, the immigrant spouse receives a Permanent Resident card (Form I-551, sometimes called a “green card”) that is valid for 10 years and can be renewed every 10 years after that. Of course, many new Permanent Residents apply for US citizenship well before those first 10 years expire.

If the couple is recently married (marriage less than 2 years old), however, then the new Permanent Resident card will be valid for only two years. This is called Conditional Permanent Residence. The basic idea is that the immigration agency, USCIS, is always watching out for fake marriages that are just for the purpose of getting immigration papers. That two-year period is one more way that USCIS seeks to make the couple prove that the marriage is real. I like to tell clients that it’s a little like marriage probation or a marriage test – if you were just doing this for papers, you probably wouldn’t live together for two years. In the 90-day period before the two years are up, the couple will have to file another Form called I-751 to convert the Conditional Permanent Resident card to a regular, 10-year Permanent Resident card. To do so, they have to prove that they were living together for the two years, with some exceptions (for example, if one spouse is in the military and deployed overseas).