Once U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) accepts your Adjustment of Status Application, you become an “adjustment of status applicant” with the legal right to remain in the United States. You are not required to maintain your previous nonimmigrant status, but there are advantages to keeping in good status.
Many F-1 students and other nonimmigrants who adjust status wonder if they are obligated to maintain their nonimmigrant visas while the I-485 application is pending. Once a green card is granted, the individual is a permanent resident with the right to reside and work in the United States permanently. However, the period that the I-485 is pending may last several months. As adjustment of status applicants, they could potentially drop out of school. However, this puts them in a precarious position should the I-485 get denied.
Not Maintaining Status
If you have filed Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, you generally are not confined by the restrictions on your nonimmigrant visa. You have the right to remain in the United States while the application is pending. As an F-1 student, you could potentially drop out of school. An H-1B worker could potentially accept a job from a different employer. However, if USCIS denies the I-485 application, you could be forced to leave the United States immediately.
Continuing to Maintain Status
Alternatively, you can follow a strategy of meeting the obligations of your nonimmigrant visa until USCIS approves your permanent residency. If USCIS denies the I-485 application, you can generally return to your nonimmigrant status. An F-1 student who continues school and all other requirements that come with F-1 status can fall back to that nonimmigrant status if the I-485 get denied. Likewise, an H-1B employee who continues to work with the same sponsoring employer can generally remain in the U.S. However, maintaining status is not always possible. For example, an F-1 student who temporarily departs the United States to visit family may not be able to return on the F-1 visa after the I-485 is filed.
The green card time line can take several months. Although maintaining nonimmigrant status is no longer required once you file Form I-485, it’s always a safe strategy to continue meeting the obligations of the nonimmigrant visa (if possible) that got you here in the first place.