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What is USCIS Form I-485, "Adjustment of Status Application"?

July 22, 2021
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Summary

Form I-485 is an essential document to submit for the green card application process. Form I-485 is officially called the "Adjustment of Status Application". You can submit Form I-485 if you are eligible for a green card and entered the United States on a valid nonimmigrant visa. Filing Form I-485 allows you to register lawful permanent residence. In this article, we explain how Form I-485 factors in the green card application process, who can use the form, and who is not qualified to. You will learn what the Form I-485 filing fees are, how long the processing timeframe is for Form I-485, and the required documents to submit with the form.

Overview

What is Form I-485?

Form I-485 is officially called the “Adjustment of Status Application” and is the official green card application. Certain immigrants who are in the United States, including special immigrants like asylees, can submit an adjustment of status application to change their immigration status to a green card. 

To adjust status, you’ll have to be in the United States and submit Form I-485. If you are in the United States, you can submit Form I-130 and Form I-485 at the same time. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) refers to this process as “concurrent filing”. Green card applicants who aren’t present in the United States can file Form I-485 from their home country through the “consular process”. You’ll need to work with your local U.S. embassy or consulate to apply from outside the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a directory of U.S. embassies and consulates around the world.

Who can file Form I-485?

According to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), only certain immigrants qualify to change their nonimmigrant status and register permanent residence with Form I-485. To apply for a green card, you must be eligible. USCIS’s green card eligibility categories can be family-based, humanitarian, or employment-based. 

To apply for a family-based green card, you must be the immediate relative of an American citizen or a lawful permanent resident. This means you must either be the spouse, parent, or child of a citizen or green card holder. You also have to be in the United States and have entered the United States based on a valid nonimmigrant visa. Refugees and asylees can adjust their status to a humanitarian green card after living in the United States for a year. Foreigners employed by some U.S. employers can file Form I-485 to get an employment-based green card.

Who cannot file Form I-485?

Not everyone can file Form I-485 though. Immigrants who are family members of U.S. citizens but not present in the United States cannot file Form I-485. Additionally, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS),  you cannot file an I-485 if:

  • You came into the United States as a crewman;
  • You came into the United States while in transit to another country;
  • You entered the United States as a witness or informant; or
  • You are in removal proceedings due to terrorism.

There are also “inadmissibility” grounds that may prevent you from filing form I-485. Disqualifying categories include the following:

  • Health-related conditions (you have a mental health condition or a disqualifying communicable disease)
  • Criminal record (a court convicted you of particular crimes)
  • Security grounds (you pose a threat to the national security of the United States)
  • Immigration law violations (you’ve previously violated U.S. immigration laws)
  • Other grounds (such as entering the United States to practice polygamy, child abduction, and to vote unlawfully)

Waivers may be available to resolve some of the above grounds. These waivers depend on the relationship between the petitioner and the applicant. The category of green card also plays a role. If you’re considering filing a waiver, you should talk to a lawyer to help you do it.

How much does Form I-485 cost?

When you determine that you qualify to file Form I-485, you’ll have to get ready to file it. There are supporting documents, including a government filing fee, to submit with the form. It costs $1,225 to file Form I-485 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This amount includes a biometrics processing fee. You can pay the filing fees with a money order, personal check, or cashier’s check. Filing fees can vary based on your age and situation. Refugees don’t have to pay the filing fee for Form I-485. Also, applicants under 14 who are filing with the I-485 application of at least one parent, have to pay a lower filing fee. Check out the filing fees based on your category on the USCIS website.

What supporting documents do I need to file with Form I-485?

To prove that you are eligible for a green card, you need to back up Form I-485 with supporting documents. These should include:

  • Proof that the applicant had a valid visa upon arrival to the United States. A copy of this visa and the I-94 travel record should be attached as evidence.
  • Proof of the applicant’s nationality (copy of a birth certificate and foreign passport).
  • Proof of the sponsor’s financial ability to support the applicant (copy of the petitioner’s recent federal income tax returns and pay stubs filed with an Affidavit of Support).
  • Proof that there was no conviction, if the applicant seeking a green card has ever been arrested (certified copy of the court record).
  • Immigration medical examination results. You can find a USCIS-approved doctor in your area by using the find a doctor tool

What if I don't have the required supporting documents for Form I-485?

You can submit alternative documents (officially called “secondary evidence”) if a required supporting document is not available. For example, suppose you’ve lost your original birth certificate. You must submit a document that would replace a birth certificate in that case. 

You can get an official letter from your country stating that the original needed document is not available. Such documents might include school records or census records showing your date of birth, place of birth, and parents’ names.

Suppose none of the above alternative documents are available. In that case, you can submit written statements from at least two people who were alive when you were born.

Your supporting documents aim to fulfill two goals. First, they must prove that the sponsor has a valid U.S. permanent residency or U.S. citizen status. Second, they must prove that there is a bona fide relationship with the person sponsoring your green card application. Every supporting document you submit to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must be in English. USCIS has specific translation requirements. Based on that, you must get a certified translation of your immigration documents.

The U.S. government accepts specific secondary evidence. You can find additional information about it on the State Department website.

Where do I submit Form I-485?

Once you’ve completed all of your forms, collected the supporting documents, and prepared the filing fees, you should assemble everything in one packet to submit to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It’s preferable to make copies of all documents you are submitting. Never submit originals to USCIS - you may not get them back.

You can file Form I-485 either online or by mail. To submit your form online, you should create a MyUSCIS account on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) website. You can then receive all updates on your application through your alien registration number (a-number).

If you will mail them to USCIS, the lockbox that you use depends on where you live and the postal service that you use to submit the application.

How long does it take for Form I-485 to get approved?

It can take a while for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process your Form I-485 application. Form I-485 processing times differ depending on which adjustment category you fall under. You should receive receipt notices in approximately six weeks. USCIS will set a biometrics appointment at a local Application Support Center (ASC). That's where you submit your photo and fingerprints for a security check.

You can file an application for a travel document or advance parole (Form I-131) and an application for employment authorization (Form I-765) with the I-485. You should receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Travel Document in six to eight months. 

USCIS should decide on your green card application from twelve to eighteen months if your priority date becomes current. If USCIS approved your immigrant petition, you will receive your green card in the mail 30 days after an approval notice. When USCIS issues a green card interview notice, you must appear for the interview at a local USCIS office. There, the interviewing officer will make a decision on your green card application. 

The National Visa Center (NVC) is part of the U.S. Department of State. It stores U.S. immigrant visa petitions approved by the USCIS until an immigrant visa number becomes available for the petition. Either USCIS, the NVC, or both will handle your case. The type of application you are submitting and the pandemic might affect your application's processing time.

Conclusion

It can be complicated to File Form I-485, but working with a good immigration attorney or law firm can make it easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your file Form I-485 alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!

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