or can his girlfriend file for change of status after she's been in the US as a non-immigrant for a few years?
It depends on the type of felony that your brother was convicted of. He should speak to an experienced immigration attorney in his area.
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Depends on the felony.
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Because of the Adam Walsh Act US citizen is ineligible to file a petition for immigrant status under INA 203(a) or nonimmigrant K status, if has been convicted of a "specified offense against a minor," defined in section 111 of the Adam Walsh Act as an offense involving any of the following:
(1) An offense (unless committed by a parent or guardian) involving kidnapping;
(2) An offense (unless committed by a parent or guardian) involving false imprisonment;
(3) Solicitation to engage in sexual conduct;
(4) Use in a sexual performance;
(5) Solicitation to practice prostitution;
(6) Video voyeurism as described in Section 1801 of title 18, United States Code;
(7) Possession, production, or distribution of child pornography;
(8) Criminal sexual conduct involving a minor, or the use of the Internet to facilitate or attempt such conduct; and
(9) Any conduct that by its nature is a sex offense against a minor.