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How can I convert my US visitor visa to green card?

Many individuals who travel as B-2 visitors to the United States ask themselves the following question: Can I change of status from a visitor visa to a Green Card? In this article we answer this and other questions regarding immigration to this country.

Entering on a US tourist visa and staying is possible. Aliens with a tourist visa have several ways to achieve this. For example, through an family based immigration (spouse, parents, children, siblings) or marriage to a citizen or resident.

Of course, it is not an expedited process, since it depends on a series of eligibility requirements that you must meet.

Before starting the process, you will need to consult with an immigration attorney if you are eligible to apply for adjustment of status.

  • The tourist visa only allows permanence in the country for a period not exceeding 6 months. 
  • However, it is possible to extend their legal stay and arrange paperwork if the national foreigner decides to stay longer. 

Read on for key information on living in the United States on a tourist visa.

I Entered With A Visa And Stayed, What Options Do I Have To Arrange Paperwork?

National foreigners with legal status in the US have more opportunities to arrange paperwork. So it is important not to accumulate unlawful presence in the US while you process the papers. 

Another element to take into account is that if the agency discovers that the tourist visa application was with the intention of staying, the person would be committing a serious violation of Immigration law. 

Ways To Fix Papers If You Enter With A Tourist Visa

There are 6 ways to fix paperwork and change of status from a visitor visa to a Green Card if you are legally in the US on a tourist visa: 

  1. 1. Adjustment of status through a US citizen child over the age of 21, even if they are a minor upon reaching age 21, is possible to do so;
  2. 2. Marry a US citizen. It is the fastest way to obtain permanent residence without having to leave the US for consular processing;
  3. 3. Marry a lawful permanent resident. Residency by marriage to a resident is another way, but you have to apply for an immigration waiver of inadmissibility and leave the US.
  4. 4. Petition of a direct family member (parents, spouses) that also requires consular processing;
  5. 5. Vawa visa (violence against women law) for victims of abuse or extreme cruelty;
  6. 6. Asylum in the USA. If they manage to prove after entering the US legally that they are prevented from returning to their country for fear of being persecuted due to:
  7. Political opinions;

  • Religious beliefs;
  • Race;
  • Nationality, or;
  • Belonging to a certain social group.

Remember that US legislation promotes and prioritizes family reunification in its immigration policy.

What Happens If You Stay In The US Longer Than Allowed On A Tourist Visa?

Unlawful presence in the US can bring very serious consequences. Especially, if the immigrant does not have adequate legal advice.  

In this way, you will have more time to manage and comply with the requirements established by USCIS.

Staying in the US longer than allowed means:

  • Accumulating unlawful presence, losing legal status, and risking deportation;
  • It prevents you from being eligible to obtain a new American visa;
  • Cancellation of the tourist, work, student or any other type of visa;
  • Even staying for more than a day complicates the completion of any immigration procedure in the future;
  • But if they exceed 180 days and then move out of the country, they trigger the three-year ban. That means that during that time you will not be able to enter the US again;
  • If national foreigners stays more than a year, then they could be sanctioned with the 10-year bar. During that period they will also not be able to enter the country.

How To Apply For The Tourist Visa Extension?

The general requirements to request an extension of the tourist visa are the following:

  • Have been lawfully admitted to the US in nonimmigrant status;
  • Be legally in the country. That is, with current nonimmigrant status;
  • You have not been charged or convicted of deportable crimes and offenses
  • There is no reason to have to leave the US;
  • Have a passport that is valid for the extension time requested to stay in the US;
  • Prove that the delay in leaving was due to unforeseen and/or extraordinary circumstances. For example, health reasons, family and others.

Additionally, you must:

  • Complete and sign Form I-539, Application for Extension or Change of Nonimmigrant Status, and pay the $370 fee. Certain individuals qualify to request a fee waiver;
  • Submit form I-539 to USCIS. Take into account that this request must be made before the legal period of your stay expires.

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What Are The Options For Submitting The Form?

The form can be submitted by:

  • Postal mail to the appropriate address, according to the applicant’s classification and situation;
  • Online.

Before making the application, it is best to consult with an experienced and competent Los Angeles immigration attorney. In the request you must argue the reasons for requesting an extension of your stay in the United States.

How Many Times Can I Request The Extension Of The Visa?

Since the maximum length of stay in the US is one year, a visa extension can only be requested once. Unless you want to become a permanent resident through one of the exceptions allowed by law.  

How Long Can Visa-Exempt Travelers Stay? 

Travelers from 38 countries, including Canada and most member countries of the European Union, can travel to the United States for up to 90 days. To do this they must make an ESTA permit application. 

Unlike tourist visas for travelers from the rest of the world, the Visa Waiver program does not allow you to request visa extensions. There are two options to stay longer in the US: 

  • Physically leave the country and re-enter, or;
  • Request longer stays through the B-1 visa or B-2 visa that can be processed at a US consulate in your country before your trip.

Can The Tourist Visa Be Converted Into A Green Card?

A frequent question from immigrants who want to reside in the US is this: If I have a tourist visa, can I still become a resident? The answer is yes. Aliens with a tourist visa can apply to receive a Green Card. However, they need to have legal status and meet the eligibility conditions to adjust their status. 

How Can I Change My Visa Status From Tourist To Permanent Resident?

To change your status from tourist to immigrant, you must meet certain requirements. Then file an application with USCIS, depending on how you intend to become a resident. That is, at the request of a family member or at the request of an employer.

Consider the following:

  • Wait at least 90 days to start the process. If you do this sooner, Immigration will assume you entered the US on a tourist visa to stay;
  • Those who are getting married or petitioning for a relative can apply through Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative;
  • If the family member is already in the United States and a visa number is available, they must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. If you are outside the US, you must go through consular processing;
  • Instead, to obtain residency for an immigrant by work it is necessary to complete Form I-140, Petition by Alien Immigrant Worker or Form I-526, Petition for Immigrant by Alien Entrepreneur; 
  • Once they are approved, they can then file Form I-485 to adjust status.

Can I Use My Tourist Visa While I Wait For The Green Card?

Depends. If you entered the US on a valid tourist visa and are applying for a Green Card, yes. Even if after the process your I-94 residence permit expires. 

But if you are outside the US and a family member or employer applied for it, you cannot use your tourist visa while the application is pending. You must wait until you receive approval to adjust your immigration status so you can travel on an immigrant visa. 

Can I Work On A Tourist Visa In The US?

  • It is prohibited by law to work in the US with this types of American visas. 
  • Only aliens who are already doing paperwork to fix papers can work.
  • Asylum seekers can do so after 150 days of having started such process. 

Although there is no written punishment in the law for immigrants who are caught working illegally in the US, the most common thing is that the alien cannot obtain a new visa. 

Entering the USA with a tourist visa and staying carries certain risks for any national foreigner. The good news is that you can minimize that risk by consulting the best immigration attorneys in Los Angeles. 

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