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Legal Information: Federal


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January 30, 2018

If my self-petition is approved, when can I apply for legal permanent residence status (green card)?

If your self-petition is approved, the amount of time you will need to wait to apply for legal permanent residence (also known as “adjusting status”) depends on the family immigration system. The family immigration system is a set of immigration laws that allow someone to obtain an immigration benefit through family relationships.

You can apply immediately for LPR status if you are the:

  • spouse of a US citizen (USC);
  • unmarried child (under 21 years old) of a USC; or
  • parent of a USC who is over 21 years old.1

When other self-petitioners (spouses and children of legal permanent residents (LPRs)) are able to apply will depend on something called the “family preference system.”2 Because there is a limit in the number of people who can immigrate under certain categories each year, there is generally a waiting period until spouses and children of LPRs can apply for legal permanent residence.3 How long the wait is will depend on a number of factors such as the nationality of the self-petitioner, his/her relationship with the LPR, and his/her “priority date.”2 “Priority date” means the date when the self-petition was received by USCIS.4 If the abuser filed a family petition on your behalf before you filed the self-petition, the priority date may be the date of that earlier filing. Please check with an immigration lawyer for more information.

Additionally, if your self-petition was approved and you are applying for legal permanent residence status, you will have to demonstrate that you are not “inadmissible.”5 There are many “inadmissibility grounds,” which are reasons why people cannot be “admitted” into the US (for example, criminal and fraud-related grounds, among others).5 In other words, the inadmissibility grounds are reasons why someone may not be able to receive an immigration benefit, such as a green card. An immigration attorney can tell you if you fall under one or more of the inadmissibility grounds, and also if there are exemptions or waivers available to you.

1 INA § 201(b)(2)(A)(i)
2 See generally USCIS website – Visa Availability and Priority Dates
3 See generally INA § 203(a); and USCIS website – Green Card for a Family Member of a Permanent Resident
4 USCIS website – Glossary
5 INA § 212