If you are born outside of Texas and the United States and lack lawful permanent residency status, you must leave the country within 90 days to six months of arrival, depending on the type of tourist visa you have. However, if you wish to remain in the U.S., you may be able to adjust your visa status through a process called “adjustment of status.” FindLaw explains what you need to know about the process before you apply.

To benefit from this clause in immigration law, you must meet the eligibility requirements. To qualify for adjustment of status, you must be physically present in the United States, and you must have come to the country legally. (There are exceptions to this requirement, one of which is battered family members). You must also be able to present a qualifying “basis to immigrate.” Qualifying bases include family, employment, humanitarian programs and special immigrant classifications.

Proof of qualifying bases must come in the form of a petition. In most cases, another individual must petition on your behalf. For instance, if your reason for wanting to stay in the U.S. is that you have family here, a family member who is a U.S. citizen must petition on your behalf. Likewise, if your reason for staying involves employment, you would need a petition from your employer or a prospective employer.

In some cases, you may be able to file a petition on your own behalf or forego the appeal altogether. For example, those who apply for adjustment of status based on special immigration classifications may petition for themselves. Those involved in humanitarian programs may not require a petition at all.

You should also note that the U.S. only allocates a certain number of visas per category each year. Before you trouble yourself with the process, make sure immigrant visas are available.

If you qualify for adjustment of status, and if visas are available, you must apply for permanent residency via form I-485. The application process requires you to submit to fingerprinting and a photograph. If necessary, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may request an interview, to which you must bring original copies of all relevant documentation.

You should not use this article as legal advice. It is for educational purposes only.