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Can I apply for green card while on tourist visa?

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Can I apply for a green card while on a tourist visa?

Yes, it is possible to apply for a green card while on a tourist visa, but there are certain conditions and restrictions that you need to be aware of. The U.S. government offers several pathways to obtain a green card, and one of them is through adjustment of status. This means that if you entered the United States legally on a tourist visa, you may be eligible to adjust your status to that of a permanent resident without having to return to your home country.

To apply for a green card while on a tourist visa, you must fulfill certain requirements. Firstly, you need to have an immediate family member who is a U.S. citizen or a current green card holder, and they must be willing to sponsor you. Immediate family members include spouses, parents, and unmarried children under the age of 21. Additionally, you need to be in the United States legally and have not violated your visa terms or overstayed your permitted duration of stay.

Once you have determined that you meet the eligibility criteria, the next step is to file an application for adjustment of status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This process involves submitting various forms, supporting documents, and paying the required fees. It is important to note that applying for a green card while on a tourist visa does not guarantee approval, as the decision ultimately lies with the USCIS.

FAQs about applying for a green card while on a tourist visa

1. Can I apply for a green card if I entered the U.S. illegally?

Entering the U.S. illegally can have severe consequences, including deportation. In most cases, individuals who entered the country illegally are not eligible to apply for a green card while inside the U.S. However, some exceptions exist for certain special circumstances, such as being a victim of a crime or trafficking. It is crucial to consult with an immigration attorney to ascertain your specific options in such cases.

2. What is the difference between adjustment of status and consular processing?

Adjustment of status refers to the process of applying for a green card while inside the United States, whereas consular processing involves applying for a green card at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. If you are already in the U.S. on a valid nonimmigrant visa, and you meet the eligibility criteria, you may choose to pursue adjustment of status. Conversely, if you are outside the U.S. or ineligible for adjustment of status, consular processing may be the right option for you.

3. Can I work in the U.S. while my green card application is pending?

If you are on a tourist visa and have applied for a green card through adjustment of status, you may be eligible to apply for a work permit, also known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This document allows you to legally work in the United States while your green card application is still pending. However, obtaining an EAD is not automatic, and you must meet certain requirements and submit a separate application to obtain it.

4. How long does the adjustment of status process take?

The processing time for an adjustment of status application can vary depending on various factors, such as the backlog of applications at USCIS and the type of green card being sought. On average, it can take several months to over a year for the process to be completed. It is important to note that the processing time may be longer for certain categories, so it is advisable to be patient and prepared for potential delays.

5. Can I travel outside the U.S. while my green card application is pending?

If you have applied for adjustment of status, it is generally not advisable to travel outside the United States until you receive advance parole. Advance parole is a travel document that allows individuals with pending green card applications to re-enter the U.S. after temporary travel abroad. Without advance parole, leaving the country before your green card is approved may lead to the abandonment of your application.

6. What happens if my green card application is denied?

If your green card application is denied, you may have the option to file an appeal or a motion to reopen or reconsider the decision. However, the availability of these options depends on the specific circumstances of your case and the basis for the denial. Seeking guidance from an experienced immigration attorney is essential to explore your options and determine the most appropriate course of action.

7. Can I include my dependent family members in the green card application?

Yes, you can include certain dependent family members in your green card application. Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for derivative benefits, which means they can obtain green cards based on your primary application. However, it is crucial to meet the eligibility requirements and provide the necessary documentation for each dependent family member included in the application.

8. Can I switch jobs while my green card application is pending?

Switching jobs while your green card application is pending can complicate the process, especially if it involves a significant change in your occupation or employer. It is advisable to consult with an immigration attorney before making any employment changes to understand the potential impact on your green card application. In certain cases, it may be necessary to file an amended petition or notify USCIS about the job change.

9. What happens if my tourist visa expires while my green card application is pending?

If your tourist visa expires while your green card application is pending, you generally do not accrue unlawful presence as long as the application was filed before the expiration of your visa. However, it is crucial to maintain legal status throughout the process and avoid any unauthorized employment or other activities that may violate the terms of your visa. Consult with an immigration attorney to ensure compliance with immigration regulations.

10. Can I apply for a green card while on a visa waiver program?

In most cases, individuals who enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are not eligible to adjust their status to that of a permanent resident. The VWP is designed for temporary stays and does not provide a pathway for obtaining a green card. If you are in the United States on a visa waiver, you will generally need to return to your home country and complete the green card application process through consular processing.

11. How much does it cost to apply for a green card?

The cost of applying for a green card can vary depending on the specific category and circumstances of your case. In addition to the USCIS filing fees, there may be additional expenses such as medical examinations, biometrics fees, and attorney fees. It is important to review the current fee schedule published by USCIS and budget accordingly to ensure a smooth application process.

12. Can I apply for a green card if I have a criminal record?

Having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify you from applying for a green card, but it can significantly impact the outcome of your application. USCIS considers criminal history as part of the background check process and may deny your green card application if you have committed certain crimes. It is crucial to obtain legal guidance from an immigration attorney who can assess your situation and provide guidance on the potential impact of your criminal record.

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