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Fundamentals of Applying for U.S. Permanent Residence

There are generally two ways by which a foreign national immigrates to the United States. The first is by obtaining an “Immigrant Visa” while the second is by applying for “Adjustment of Status”. While both processes culminate in the receipt of U.S. permanent residence if successful, they involve the submission of different applications to different government agencies.

Immigrant visas

Immigrant visas are issued by a U.S. mission abroad, whether at the consular section of a U.S. Embassy or at a U.S. Consulate. While virtually every U.S. Embassy and Consulate issues non-immigrant visas that allow the bearers to visit the United States for a limited period of time, not every U.S. mission issues Immigrant Visas. All U.S. missions, whether embassies or consulates, are housed within the U.S. Department of State. Generally, decisions by consular officers on those applications are subject to very limited review in the United States. Accordingly, those decisions can be exceedingly difficult to challenge. It is therefore critical that you enlist the professional assistance of an immigration lawyer when submitting an application for an immigrant visa. If you forego using a lawyer you are denied an Immigrant Visa by a consular officer, you may not be able to re-apply depending on the admissions that you made to the consular officer. An easy example of this situation is in a case involving a U.S. citizen petition for an alien parent to immigrate to the U.S. If the consular officer gets the parent to admit facts in the interview from which the consular officer can legally infer that the applicant defrauded a consular officer or a U.S. Customs & Border Protection (“CBP”) official in the past, the parent will not be eligible for a waiver and be permanently barred from coming to the U.S.

Adjustment of Status

This process allows foreign nationals who have already been admitted to the United States to apply for U.S. Lawful Permanent Residence without having to depart the United States and apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. mission abroad. However, only foreign nationals who have previously been lawfully admitted to the U.S. will be able to apply for Adjustment of Status. Accordingly, foreign nationals who surreptitiously crossed the border in order to enter the U.S., (i.e. without submitting to an inspection by CBP), will not be allowed to Adjust Status in the U.S., and will be required to return home and apply for an Immigrant Visa in order to complete the process of becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident.

For those people who are eligible to submit Adjustment of Status applications, submitting them without consulting an immigration lawyer incurs unnecessary risk with something as important as immigrating to the U.S. Failure to answer questions truthfully can easily result in a finding of fraud. Moreover, some applicants are less than honest with their answers because they believe that honest answers will have negative adverse consequences for them, which may simply not be true. For example, some applicants do not even realize that overstays are forgiven if the applicant is married to a U.S. citizen.

We assist countless foreign nationals and we will be happy to personally assist you with your application as well. Drop us a line at or call us at (888)354-6257. For reasons on why you should consult an immigration attorney whenever you have an immigration issue, see our page titled: Reasons Why it is Vital to Use an Immigration Lawyer.



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