Filing Family Immigration Petition and Green Card Application Concurrently
Concurrent Filing of a Green Card Application and a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative
The first step in the family immigration process requires the U.S. sponsor to file Form I-130, which is called Petition for Alien Relative. They will need to show that they are a U.S. citizen or green card holder and that they have a qualifying family relationship with the foreign national who is the beneficiary of the petition. Then, the foreign national usually will wait for USCIS approval of Form I-130 before submitting their green card application. (In some cases, they will need to go through a waiting period as well, depending on their preference category.)
An exception may apply when the foreign national already lives in the U.S., allowing the foreign national to file their green card application at the same time as the U.S. sponsor files the I-130. This is known as one-step adjustment, or concurrent filing. To make one-step adjustment work, the foreign national must be eligible for adjustment of status and must not be inadmissible to the U.S. For example, they must not have certain types of criminal convictions on their record. (You can read more here about the grounds of inadmissibility.) If a foreign national applies when they are inadmissible, they may face removal proceedings because the application will bring them to the attention of immigration authorities.
Understanding the Green Card Application
Form I-485 is the form that the foreign national will need to file when they are seeking adjustment of status while they are living in the U.S. If USCIS approves this form, the foreign national will get their green card. There is a different process if the foreign national is applying for a green card while they are elsewhere in the world. This is called consular processing, and it involves going to a U.S. consulate. If the foreign national needs to use the consular processing system, they will not be able to use the one-step adjustment process.
Pursuing One-Step Adjustment
You can use one-step adjustment if the foreign national is not only living in the U.S. but also eligible for adjustment of status. This means that they lawfully entered the U.S. and that they hold legal status currently. Also, there must be a currently available opening for the foreign national to become a permanent resident.
Most often, one-step adjustment applies to a situation involving a U.S. citizen and their foreign national spouse. The spouse already may have legal status in the U.S. through a visitor visa, a student visa, or a type of work visa. Since the spouse qualifies as an immediate relative, they would not need to go through a waiting period because USCIS does not cap green cards for this category. The foreign national spouse could file Form I-485 when the U.S. citizen spouse files Form I-130. They must make sure to check the box on Form I-485 that states that they have an immediately available immigrant visa number because their immigrant petition has been approved.
One-step adjustment also may be available to a parent or child of a U.S. citizen. (The child would need to be under 21 and unmarried.) Another, less common example involves foreign nationals who have been subjected to domestic abuse by a spouse or parent who is a U.S. citizen. They could file Form I-360 and use one-step adjustment. Other foreign nationals who are using Form I-360 do not have access to one-step adjustment.