Form I-485 Adjustment of Status, Explained

Updated on 11/27/2020

As a foreign national and plan to apply for green card in the United States, you must have heard about Form I-485 or adjustment of status. Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status is one of the most frequent used forms in immigration. Let’s talk more about form I-485 here.

Form I-485

1. What is Form I-485?

If you are applying for a Green Card inside the United States, you may be eligible for Adjustment of Status.  This will allow you to obtain Green Card status without having to travel outside of the United States.  Form I-485 is the form you submit to apply for Adjustment of Status.  The other option is to receive your Green Card through consular processing, which means you will apply for your visa at a U.S. consulate.

2. Eligibility to Adjust Status through I-485

Not everyone who applies for a Green Card is able to adjust their status.  You will have to meet the following conditions to qualify.

  • There must be an immigrant visa available for you. Even after the immigrant petition sponsored by your family member or employer is approved, you may have to wait for an immigrant visa to become available. Immigrant visa for immediate relatives (IR category, including spouse, unmarried child under 21 years of age and parent) of a U.S. citizen is always available. 
  • You are physically inside the U.S.
  • You entered the U.S. with a nonimmigrant visa; people who entered the U.S. with visa waiver might be eligible for adjustment of status in certain circumstance.
  • You have maintained legal immigration status in the U.S. Immediate relatives (spouse, unmarried child under 21 years of age and parent) of a U.S citizen can adjust status even they have been out of status.
  • You are admissible to the U.S. Factors such as having immigration violations, a criminal record or having certain diseases can make you inadmissible and ineligible to adjust your status.

There are some exceptions to these rules and you might be able to obtain a waiver in some circumstances. Honestly, waiver is difficult and you’d better consult an immigration lawyer before taking any action.

Not sure if you are eligible to adjust your status in the United States? You can free check eligibility through DYgreencard without providing any personal information. When you are ready, we can help you prepare a complete I-485 application for green card in such a simple way. Moreover, a skilled immigration lawyer will review the entire application to ensure its success. Learn more, or get started today!

3. Process of Adjustment of Status

Once you have determined that you are eligible to adjust your status, you will need to take the following steps:

Have an immigrant petition filed on your behalf

This is usually done by a family member or employer.  Some people receive their Green Card through other means such as the visa lottery, as a refugee or asylee, crime victim or entrepreneur.  You may be able to self-petition under some circumstances.  If you are being sponsored by a family member, they will file form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative on your behalf.  If you are being sponsored by an employer, they will file form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers on your behalf.

Determine if a visa is available

All family-based (except IR category)  and employment-based green card applications, there is a limit on the number of permanent resident visas that can be issued each year, with further caps based on particular visa category and country of origin.  This results in a backlog for many visas types and for people from countries that send a lot of immigrants to the U.S., such as India and Mexico.  Many people have to wait years for a visa to become available even after their form I-130 or I-140 is approved.  The U.S. Department of State issues a visa bulletin every month that shows current wait times.

Complete form I-485

The form, along with instructions, can be found on the USCIS website and should be completed once a visa is available.  Sometimes, there is no wait time for an immigrant visa.  For example, since there is no cap on the number of visas available for IR category, there is never a wait time for this visa category. In such circumstances, form I-485 can be filed concurrently (at the same time) as form I-130 or I-140.  Form I-485 is divided into several sections:

  • Biographical information
  • Information about your application type or filing category
  • Your address and employment history
  • Information about your parents
  • Your marital history
  • Information about your children
  • Information about your race, ethnicity and physical appearance
  • Information about your eligibility or inadmissibility. This includes questions about organizations you belong to, criminal history, security, use of public benefits and immigration violations
  • Information about any disabilities where you need special accommodations (if applicable)
  • Your statement, signature, certification and contact information
  • Information about your interpreter (if any)
  • Information about the person who prepared the form (such as an attorney) if someone else did it for you
  • This section will be signed at a later date
  • Extra space if you need to include any additional information

Prepare supporting evidence to submit with form I-485

The specific list of what you must include with your application varies based on your individual circumstances, but below is a checklist of typical documentation:

  • 2 U.S. passport size photos
  • Copy of passport
  • Copy of birth certificate
  • Proof of lawful entry to the U.S.
  • Evidence of lawful status in the U.S. if applicable
  • Copy of marriage certificate and divorce paper if applicable
  • Proof of eligibility such as copy of form I-130 or I-140 approval notice
  • Certified police and court records of any arrests, criminal charges, or convictions if applicable

Prepare any other forms that you will submit with form I-485

This list can vary somewhat based on your individual circumstances, but typical forms include:

  • (Optional) Form I-765 to request permission to work while your case is pending
  • (Optional) Form I-131 to request permission to travel outside the U.S. while your case is pending (Alert: for people who have been out of status for more than 180 days when they filed the I-485, intentional travel will jeopardize their green card application significantly.)
  • Form I-944 to demonstrate that you have the means to support yourself and are not likely to require government benefits
  • Form I-864 to demonstrate that your sponsoring family member agrees to financially support you if necessary and has the means to do so
  • Form I-485 Supplement J to demonstrate that you still have a job offer from your sponsoring employer (for employer-sponsored green card applications only)
  • Form I-693 medical exam to demonstrate that you do not have any medical conditions that would make you inadmissible

At DYgreencard, we can help you prepare an Adjustment of Status application package with all required forms and documents. All you need to do is just answer questions and upload documents to our online platform. Then we take care of the rest. The entire application package will be reviewed by an immigration lawyer. Learn more, or get started today!

Submit form I-485 to USCIS

Be sure to include filing fees, supporting evidence and any other relevant forms.  The address where you file is based on your visa category and location, be sure that you submit your form to the correct service center.  You can find a list of addresses on the USCIS website.  You will need to include filing fees. You can calculate the filing fees through USCIS’s fee calculator.

Attend your fingerprint appointment

After you file form I-485, you will receive a notice to appear at your local Application Support Center for a biometrics appointment to be fingerprinted, photographed and they will obtain your signature.  This data is used for a background check.

Check your case status

You will receive a receipt notice 2-6 weeks after you submit form I-485 with a receipt number.  You can check the progress of your case on the USCIS website by entering your receipt number.  You can also get this information by calling the USCIS contact center at 800-375-5283.  Additionally, you can look up your expected case processing time on the USCIS website.  Processing times vary based on where you live and your visa category but range from under one year to more than three.

Go to your USCIS interview

You will likely receive a notice to appear for an interview at a USCIS field office.  Interviews are frequently, but not always required.  You will need to bring originals and copies of any documents you submitted with your application.  You should also be prepared to answer questions about your application and case.  You might be requested to submit additional evidence either before or during your interview.

Get a decision

USCIS will let you know in writing if your case is approved or denied.  You will receive your Green Card shortly afterwards if your case is approved.  You will receive an explanation explaining why if your case is denied.

4. Adjust of Status VS. Consular Processing

There are advantages and disadvantages to both Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing.  Most people prefer to adjust their status if possible but the best choice for you will depend on your individual circumstances.  In either case, be prepared for a lengthy process and to submit a large amount of information and documentation.

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