Form I-485, Explained


When to use the "Adjustment of Status" form in the green card process


Background


What is USCIS Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status)?

The next step in the family-based green card process after submitting Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) is to submit Form I-485 (Application for Adjustment of Status). In the context of a marriage green card (spouse visa), the main purpose of the I-485 is to prove that the foreign spouse is eligible for U.S. permanent residency. The spouse, whose signature is on the I-485, is called the “applicant.”

When the foreign husband or wife is present in the United States, it is often possible to file the I-130 and the I-485 at the same time (a process known as “concurrent filing”).

USCIS Form I-485, Adjustment of Status

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Eligibility


Who can file Form I-485?

An applicant (husband or wife getting their green card) can file an I-485 based on seven major categories (as listed on the form): family-based, employment-based, special immigrant, asylum or refugee, human trafficking victim or crime victim, special programs, and additional options. The I-485 further divides these seven categories into 27 sub-categories for clarity.

For purposes of a marriage-based green card, only a foreign spouse who is physically present in the United States can file an I-485 to apply for a green card. The spouse must have entered the United States on a valid visa. In addition, an immigrant visa must be “immediately available” for the spouse. This means that Form I-130 must already have been approved (as in the case of the spouse of a green card holder) or the I-130 and the I-485 forms must be concurrently filed (as in the case of the spouse of a U.S. citizen).


Who Cannot File Form I-485?

First, spouses who are not physically present in the United States cannot file the I-485. Second, even when the spouse is physically present in the United States, there are some eligibility exclusions that prevent the filing of an I-485 application.

You typically cannot file an I-485 if:

  • You entered the United States as a crewman;
  • You entered the United States for transit purposes (i.e. on your way to another country);
  • You were admitted to the United States as a witness or informant; or
  • You are “deportable” because you were involved in terrorist activity or involved with a terrorist group.

In addition to the above eligibility exclusions, there are “inadmissibility” grounds that may prevent you from filing an I-485. This means that you are disqualified from receiving a green card based on certain factors specific to you. These disqualifying categories include:

  • Health-related grounds (you have a disqualifying communicable disease or mental health condition)
  • Criminal grounds (you were convicted of certain specific crimes)
  • Security grounds (you are a threat to the national security of the United States)
  • Violations of immigration law or procedure (you’ve previously broken U.S. immigration laws)
  • Public charge grounds (you are likely to become dependent on public benefits)
  • Other grounds (miscellaneous grounds such as entering the United States to practice polygamy, being an international child abductor, and voting unlawfully)

Depending on the family relationship or the category of green card, “waivers” may be available to remedy some of the above grounds of disqualification.

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Supporting Documents


The I-485 application needs to be filed with supporting documents to prove that the applicant is eligible for a green card. The following supporting documents must be included with a marriage-based I-485 application:

  • Proof that the spouse entered the United States using a valid visa, demonstrated by a copy of this prior visa and the I-94 travel record (available here).
  • Proof of the foreign spouse’s nationality (copy of a birth certificate and foreign passport).
  • Proof of the sponsoring spouse’s ability to financially support the spouse seeking a green card (copy of the sponsoring spouse’s latest federal income tax returns and pay stubs)—for more details, see our explanation of the “Affidavit of Support.”
  • If the spouse seeking a green card has ever been arrested, proof that there was no conviction (certified copy of the court record).
  • The spouse seeking a green must also include a medical examination performed by a USCIS-approved doctor. You can find one in your area by using the USCIS find a doctor tool.

Secondary evidence

In the event that a required document is not available, you must submit alternative documents (officially called “secondary evidence”) so that USCIS can make a decision on your I-485 application.

For example, if your birth certificate is not available, you can first obtain a statement from the government agency in your home country that is in charge of issuing birth certificates, certifying that your birth certificate is not available through them. You can then submit alternative documents to prove the facts of your birth—essentially, the date and place of your birth, and the names of your parents. Such documents might include baptism records, school records, or census records showing your date of birth, place of birth, and your parents’ names.

If none of the above alternative documents are available, you can submit written statements from at least two people who were alive when you were born, and have personal knowledge about the facts of your birth. These statements could be from your grandparents, uncles, aunts, or even family friends. Each statement should include the author’s full name, address, and date and place of birth; all the facts about your own birth (date, place, and names of your parents); and an explanation of how the author has personal knowledge of these facts.

The I-485 petition is a very important step in any green card application process that’s based on a family relationship. You should think of the I-485 as an opportunity to prove that you are eligible for a green card.

For the flat rate of $950, Boundless helps you complete your entire marriage-based green card (spousal visa) application — including all required forms and supporting documents, independent attorney review, and support — from the moment your application is filed until you receive your green card. Learn more, or check your eligibility without providing any personal or financial information.


I-485 Commonly Asked Questions


1. How much does it cost to file Form I-485?

The government filing fee for an I-485 application is $1,225. In some situations, the fee for an I-485 might be lower or waived entirely (see the filing fee section of the I-485 instructions for details).


2. Where do I file Form I-485?

Where you should mail your I-485 application depends on where you live and your category of adjustment. USCIS provides a chartwith all the different scenarios.


3. What is the difference between Form I-485 and Form I-130?

If you are helping a relative apply for a green card, Form I-485 (“Application for Adjustment of Status”) is the second step in the family-based green card process after submitting Form I-130 (“Petition for Alien Relative”). If you are the spouse, parent or unmarried child under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen, you can file these two forms at the same time.

Form I-485 can also be useful for other types of green card applications. Since the purpose of Form I-485 is to adjust your status, it can also be used if you have already entered the United States either with a valid visa or through the Visa Waiver Program, oor if you are eligible to apply for a green card through a job offer or on humanitarian grounds.


4. Can Form I-485 be filed online?

You must file Form I-485 via mail to a USCIS service center. If you and your relative are filing Form I-130 and Form I-485 together, you can still file Form I-130 online, but you must physically send Form I-485 to the correct USCIS Service Center.


5. Can I expedite processing for Form I-485?

Premium processing is not available for Form I-485, but you may be able to request expedited processing through the USCIS Contact Center. Make sure to have your 13-digit USCIS case receipt number on hand so that your request can be forwarded to the correct office.


6. Can I file Form I-485 from outside the U.S.?

Your spouse or relative must be physically in the United States to file Form I-485. If they are outside the United States, then they may be eligible to apply using consular processing.


7. How long does it take to process I-485?

Depending on your category of adjustment, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years for USCIS to approve the form.

You can track the processing of your case online with your 13-digit case receipt number.

If you have filed Form I-140 for an employment-based adjustment of status, your I-140 must be approved first.


8. Can I travel while my I-485 is pending?

If you need to travel outside of the United States while your I-485 is still being processed, then you will need to file Form I-131 (“Application for Travel Document”). If you travel without this, USCIS may believe that you have abandoned your I-485 application and reject it.

Sometimes, you can file Form I-131 and Form I-765 (“Application for Employment Authorization”) together, either with your I-485 application or afterwards. USCIS will process these together and give you a combined work and travel permit. This is officially called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)-Advanced Parole card. This card will allow you to travel outside the United States and also work while you wait for your green card application to be processed.


9. How can I check the status for my Form I-485 application?

You can check the status of your I-485 application online or over the phone. In both cases, you will need your 13-digit USCIS case receipt number. You can find this number on any correspondence you have had with USCIS.


10. What if my I-485 gets denied?

Form I-485 can be rejected for any number of reasons. Sometimes, it may be denied because some of the required documents were missing. If your I-485 is denied, you may be able to appeal the application. You can also choose to restart your application. However, to make things easier and avoid this happening, you can reach out to Boundless for help with your green card application.


11. What is the I-485 to green card timeline?

The time it takes from filing Form I-485 to getting a green card can be anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on your situation.

Some of the factors which affect this process include your eligibility to adjust your status. If you are applying through a family-based process, then your relationship with the U.S. citizen who has petitioned on your behalf will also affect how long things will take.

Another factor that will affect the I-485 to green card timeline is which USCIS Service Center you applied to. You can check processing times for your USCIS Service Center you applied to for an estimate.


12. Will filing Form I-485 allow me to work?

If you have filed Form I-485 and you wish to work while your green card application is still pending, then you will need to apply for a work permit, or an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

To do this, you will need to file Form I-765. You can send this form at the same time as you file Form I-485, or at any time while your application is still processing. In most cases, your work permit will be processed in less than 12 months, and you can begin working as soon as you receive it.

Since the work permit is valid for a year, sometimes you may need to renew it while still waiting for your green card to be approved. If this happens, you can submit a new Form I-765.

If your relative has filed Form I-130 but you’re not eligible to apply for a green card yet, you cannot apply for a work permit.


13. As a spouse or fiancé(e), can I use Form I-485?

If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen and have lawfully entered the United States, you can file Form I-485 to adjust your status and start your journey towards becoming a green card holder.

If you are the fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen, you can file Form I-485 if you entered the United States on a K-1 nonimmigrant visa and married the same U.S. citizen who filed Form I-129F, (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)) for you within 90 days of arriving in the United States. Once you are married, USCIS considers you to be an immediate relative, and you can apply for a marriage-based green card.


14. When should I file Form I-485?

If you are applying for a marriage-based green card, you can file Form I-485 at the same time that your U.S. citizen spouse files Form I-130. You can also do this if you are an immediate relative of the U.S. citizen who is filing Form I-130 on your behalf, for example, if you are the parent of the petitioner, or you are their unmarried child and you are younger than 21 years old.

If you are applying for a family-preference green card or an employment-based green card, sometimes a visa may not be immediately available. In this case, you will need to wait after USCIS has approved the Form I-130 petition, and an immigrant visa number is available. You will be able to track this on the monthly visa bulletin published by the U.S. Department of State.


15. Can I still file Form I-485 if I have a criminal record?

When you file Form I-485, USCIS may request biometric information to confirm your identity and run a background check.

As the beneficiary, you will also need to answer questions about your criminal history, both inside and outside the United States. If you have a criminal record, things may get complicated, but it does not necessarily mean your green card application will be denied.


16. What is the I-485J?

If you have filed Form I-485 to adjust your status through an offer of employment but wish to change jobs, you may still be eligible to apply for an adjustment of status through your new role, if the new job is similar.

To request job portability, you can file Form I-485 Supplement J, which will require both you and your new employer to submit information. You should file this at the same location where you filed Form I-485.


17. What is the difference between Form I-485 and consular processing?

Form I-485 is used when the person who is applying for their green card is already in the United States. If they are outside the U.S., then they may find it more convenient to apply for a green card through consular processing. While eligibility requirements for both are similar, both processes are quite different, with separate forms and costs involved.

Boundless can help you consider your options and answer any questions you might have about which route to take.



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