Change of Status vs. Adjustment of Status in Immigration Law

Understanding the nuances of US immigration processes is crucial for those navigating the complex system. Two terms often encountered are “Adjustment of Status” and “Change of Status“. Let’s delve into the key distinctions between these two concepts.



Difference Between Change of Status vs. Adjustment of Status

The main difference between Adjustment of Status and Change of Status in US Immigration Law lies in their purpose and application.

Adjustment of Status is the process for individuals already in the United States with a nonimmigrant status to apply for permanent residency (an immigrant status), commonly known as a Green Card, typically through family-sponsored or employment-based channels.

Change of Status, on the other hand, involves transitioning from one nonimmigrant category to another while remaining in the US, such as switching from a student F-1 status to a work H-1B status.

Both Change of Status and Adjustment of Status require that the petitioner is already in the US. If they are outside the United States, then those terms can’t be used. In that case, the person would be applying for a new visa.


What is Adjustment of Status?

Adjustment of Status refers to the process through which an individual already in the United States can apply for permanent residency, commonly known as a Green Card. This route is available to those eligible for family-sponsored, employment-based visas, asylum, U Visa etc. It’s important to note that Adjustment of Status does not apply to those outside the US – they must follow consular processing instead.


Common Questions about Adjustment of Status:


1) Who is Eligible for Adjustment of Status?

  • Individuals eligible for family-sponsored or employment-based immigration, asylum, refugees, or other specific categories (such as U Visa) may qualify for Adjustment of Status.
  • To qualify for Adjustment of Status, an individual needs to have undergone inspection and received admission or parole into the United States. Additionally, the person must meet the eligibility criteria to obtain an immigrant visa and should not possess any factors that would make them inadmissible to the United States.

2) Can I Travel While My Adjustment of Status is Pending?

  • Yes, but it requires advance parole, which is a different form/petition. Leaving without it may lead to abandonment of the application.

3) How Long Does Adjustment of Status Take?

4) Is There an Interview for Adjustment of Status?

  • According to USCIS, “all adjustment of status applicants must be interviewed by an officer unless the interview is waived by USCIS. The decision to waive the interview should be made on a case-by-case basis.
  • The interview enables USCIS to verify important information about the applicant to determine eligibility for adjustment. It’s very important to answer all questions honestly.

5) When Can I Apply for Adjustment of Status?

  • You must file for Adjustment of Status before your nonimmigrant status expires, so you don’t accrue unlawful presence in the US. Falling out of status can have serious consequences, including difficulties in future immigration processes. Until your Adjustment of Status is approved, you will be in a ‘legal limbo,’ so it is recommended that you act as if you were under the obligations of the status you used to enter the US when applying for adjustment, even if that status expires while you wait for a decision on your Adjustment of Status petition.”


What is Change of Status?

Change of Status involves transitioning from one nonimmigrant status category to another while in the US. This is common for individuals who want to switch from, for example, a student to a work status. Since every visa has its own purpose, if you change the purpose of your visit to the US (e.g. from studying to working), a change of status is required.

But it’s important to note that you can only apply for Change of Status before your previous status expires. If it does, you’ll have to leave the US and go through consular process.


Common Questions about Change of Status:


1) Who Can Apply for Change of Status?

  • Those with a valid nonimmigrant status and who meet the requirements of the desired new status may apply. According to USCIS, you may apply for Change of Status if you were lawfully admitted to the United States with a nonimmigrant visa, your nonimmigrant status remains valid, you have not violated the conditions of your status, and you have not committed any crimes that would make you ineligible.

2) Can I Start Working in the New Status While the Application is Pending?

  • No, you must wait for the Change of Status to be approved before engaging in activities allowed under the new category. Until you receive approval from USCIS, do not assume the status has been approved, and do not change your activity in the United States. For example, if you are currently a nonimmigrant tourist, do not begin attending school as a student until you have received authorization from USCIS to change your status.

3) What Happens if My Change of Status is Denied?

  • If your application is denied, you may be required to leave the US and apply for the desired status at a US consulate abroad.

4) When Can I Apply for Change of Status?

  • You must apply for the change before your current status expires. USCIS recommends filing the application well in advance to ensure sufficient processing time. Applying before the current status expires helps avoid any gaps in legal status, as unauthorized stay may have consequences (you may be banned for entering the country again).

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