Form I-485 Instructions: Adjustment of Status
Author: Jameel Manji, Founder, Manji Law, P.C.
Mr. Manji founded Manji Law in 2016 to follow his passion of helping people navigate the complicated immigration system. Mr. Manji graduated from Georgia State University College of Law and received Master of Taxation from the Georgia State’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business. Published on: May 31, 2018, Last Updated on: June 14, 2019.
Are you or someone you love petitioning for Adjustment of your immigration status? The process, which begins with form I-485, can be complicated. This page will guide you through the basics of an Adjustment Of Status and let you know what to expect.
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What Is Form I-485?
What is Form I-485? Known as the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, I-485 is an immigration form used by individuals in the United States to request a change in their immigration status from temporary to permanent. Getting permanent status is also known as getting a Green Card. An Adjustment Of Status is a term used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to describe a change in immigration status. There are many different statuses: Student, temporary visitor, and tourist are some examples of immigration statuses where the individual is not allowed to permanently live and work in the United State. Form I-485, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is only for certain individuals who are attempting to change their status from temporary to permanent.
Eligibility for Lawful Permanent Residence
Not every immigrant is eligible to apply for a Green Card or to submit the Application to Register Permanent Residence using Form I-485; only a limited number of people have this opportunity. To be eligible to apply for a green card, they must be able to apply for the change in status while living in the United States and without leaving to return home for a consular interview. They must also meet one of the following eligibility requirements.
I-485 Eligibility Requirements
- Family relationship approved through Form I-130,
- K-1 Visa holder (This person marries a U.S. citizen and is approved via Form I-129F petition),
- Employment approved through Form I-140 petition,
- Cuban citizen, or
- Refugee or Asylum status
Here is some additional information from the USCIS website about who may file Form I-485:
You may apply as the person who directly qualifies for an immigrant category (“principal applicant”) or, in some cases, as a family member of the principal applicant (“derivative applicant”). Whether you are a principal or derivative applicant, you must file your own Form I-485.
1. Principal Applicant for I-485
The principal applicant is usually the individual named as the beneficiary of an immigrant petition or who is otherwise qualified to adjust status. A principal applicant must designate which immigrant category he or she is applying under by selecting the appropriate box listed on Form I-485, Part 2. Application Type or Filing Category, Item Numbers 1.a. – 1.g.
Each category has specific requirements for adjustment of status. In addition to these Instructions, read the Additional Instructions (found after the Form I-485 Main Instructions) for your immigrant category to determine if any additional requirements apply to you.
2. Derivative Applicant (files based on a principal applicant) for I-485
A principal applicant’s spouse and children, who are not beneficiaries of their own immigrant petition, may be eligible to apply for adjustment under the same immigrant category as the principal applicant. These family members are called “derivative applicants.” A derivative applicant must designate which immigrant category he or she is applying under by selecting the appropriate box listed on Form I-485, Part 2. Application Type or Filing Category, Item Numbers 1.a. – 1.g.
Some immigrant categories do not allow for derivative applicants, while a few categories allow additional family members to apply as derivative applicants. See the Additional Instructions for more details.
Under U.S. immigration law, you are a “child” if you are unmarried, under 21 years of age, and meet the definition of “child” found in the INA and USCIS policy guidance. Visit www.uscis.gov/tools/glossary for more information on the definition of “child.” You may still be considered a child for immigration purposes even after turning 21 years of age if you qualify under the provisions of the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA). For more information on CSPA, see www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-processes-and-procedures/child-status-protection-act/child-status- protection-act-cspa.
3. Other Immigrant Categories
If you are filing for adjustment of status based on an immigrant category not listed in Part 2., Item Numbers 1.a. – 1.g., select the “Other Eligibility” box in Item Number 1.g. and type or print the immigrant category you are applying under. These immigrant categories include, but are not limited to:
- Special immigrants not listed in Part 2., Item Number 1.c. (for example, certain U.S. armed forces members, Panama Canal Zone employees, and physicians);
- Polish or Hungarian parolee;
- Private immigration bill signed into law; and
- Registration of lawful permanent residence status based on a presumption of lawful admission.
An experienced immigration attorney can help you understand if you meet the criteria to apply for an adjustment to permanent status. For this and other immigration matters, we can’t stress enough the value of hiring someone with experience in this area of law. There are plenty of great lawyers in Atlanta for all types of cases, but not all share immigration experience.
Ineligibility for Lawful Permanent Residence
The rules determining who may not apply are complex. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services – USCIS – explains their general guidelines as follows:
You are generally ineligible for adjustment of status if one or more adjustment bars in INA sections 245(a), (c), (d), and/or (e) apply to you. However, adjustment bars do not apply to every type of immigrant category and your category might exempt you from certain adjustment bars. For example, certain adjustment bars do not apply to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)-based applicants, or certain special immigrants. In addition, some employment-based applicants might be eligible for an exemption to some adjustment bars. For more information, visit www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-processes-and-procedures/adjustment-status.
Immigration laws specify acts, conditions, and conduct that can make foreign nationals ineligible for lawful permanent resident status. These acts, conditions, and conduct are outlined in INA section 212(a) and are called grounds of inadmissibility. For more information, visit www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-processes-and-procedures/green- card-eligibility.
You are inadmissible to the United States and may not adjust status to a lawful permanent resident if you fall under one or more of the grounds of inadmissibility that apply to your immigrant category. Depending on your immigrant category, some grounds may not apply to you.
If you are inadmissible, you may be eligible for a waiver of the ground of inadmissibility or another form of relief. If your waiver application or other form of relief is granted, your application to adjust status may be approved.
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Form I-485 Instructions
Step-by-Step Filing Instructions
Some parts of Form I-485 are straightforward, while others may be more complex and require professional assistance. For example, Part 1 requires that you provide some of the following information:
- Your current legal name
- Mailing address
- Place and the date of the last arrival (represents the port of your most recent entry to the U.S., where you were inspected by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
In Part 2, you have to indicate the type of filing category, which requires you to understand whether you are eligible to adjust status and on what basis. For example, you have to determine whether you are an immediate relative. You are probably not applying based on the Immigration and Nationality Act.
In Part 3, you have to include your address history and employment history; Part 4 requires information about your parents, while Part 5 requires information about your marital history. In Part 6 and 7, you have to include information about your children as well as some biographic information.
Part 8 – General Eligibility and Inadmissibility Grounds – covers many ways an applicant may be inadmissible. You can use Part 9 to explain if special accommodations for individuals are needed, such as a sign language interpreter.
Part 10, called Applicant’s Statement, is where you sign Form I-485 and include contact information. But, if you don’t speak English and have relied on an interpreter to fill out your I-485 Form, he or she has to sign it in Part 11, called Interpreter’s Contact Information, Certification, and Signature.
You shouldn’t sign Part 13 yet, or Part 12 if you have filled the application yourself. Part 14 can be used if you need to expand or complete some of your previous answers.
What Is Needed to File Form I-485?
In order to obtain permanent residency, the I-485 form must be submitted to USCIS. You must complete the application and file it along with supporting evidence that will prove an applicant is eligible to adjust status. Supporting evidence is requested documentation that will help USCIS approve the change in residency status. The form I-485 may be filed along with other applications such as Form I-131, which is used to request a travel document. You can also file an application for employment authorization (Form I-765) to request employment authorization and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) along with the I-485.
Supporting Evidence for I-485 Form
Supporting documents include two identical photographs of the applicant, a medical and immunization report (form I-693), and other supporting forms. This is required for any applicant between the ages of 14 and 79 years old. Other required supporting documents include:
- Copy of a passport
- Birth certificate
- Police clearances
- Proof of lawful entrance into the United States
When Should I File Form I-485?
The USCIS website explains when you may file principal and derivative applications for lawful permanent residence:
Principal Applicant (for i485)
In general, if you are filing as a beneficiary of an immigrant visa petition (such as Form I-130, Form I-140, or Form I-360), you may file an adjustment application only after USCIS has approved your petition and an immigrant visa number is immediately available. There are, however, some immigrant categories that allow you to file Form I-485 before USCIS approves your petition (this is known as “concurrent filing”), provided that approval of the petition would make a visa number immediately available and you meet all other filing requirements. See the Additional Instructions for category-specific information on when you may file Form I-485.
Visit the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-processes-and-procedures/visa-availability- priority-dates for information on visa availability and priority dates, and the DOS website at www.travel.state.gov/ content/visas/en/law-and-policy/bulletin.html to view the Visa Bulletin.
More information about concurrent filing is available at www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-processes-and-procedures/concurrent-filing and in the instructions for Forms I-130, I-140, and I-360.
Derivative Adjustment Applicant (for i485)
With the exception of U nonimmigrants, asylees, and refugees, USCIS cannot approve your Form I-485 as a derivative applicant until the principal applicant has been granted lawful permanent resident status.
If you are currently the spouse or child (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of a principal applicant, you may file Form I-485 if an immigrant visa is immediately available to you and you meet all the filing requirements. You may file at any of the following times:
- At the same time the principal applicant files Form I-485;
- After the principal applicant filed a Form I-485 that remains pending a final decision by USCIS;
- After USCIS approves the principal applicant’s Form I-485, if the principal applicant is still a lawful permanent resident and if, at the time of the principal applicant’s Form I-485 approval, you were the principal applicant’s spouse or child; or
- After the principal applicant obtained an immigrant visa and entered the United States as a lawful permanent resident if the principal applicant is still a lawful permanent resident and, at the time of the principal applicant’s entry, you were the principal applicant’s spouse or child.
Application Fee for the Form I-485
Along with the Form I-485 and supporting evidence, the applicant must also send in an application fee. The cost of the fee may change depending on the applicant’s age and other factors. Without the fee, the application will not be processed.
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Form I-485 Filing Fee
The general filing fee for an I-485 Form is $1,140. However, the application fee may be lower depending on the applicant’s age. For example, the application fee is $750 for an applicant 13 years old or younger who is applying for a green card along with a parent. If the applicant is 13 or younger and their parent is not applying for a change in residency status, the price is $1,140.
Besides an application fee, a biometric services fee is also included with the application. This is the cost for collecting the applicant’s fingerprints, photograph, etc. It is $85 for applicants who are between 14 to 79 years old. If the applicant is older than 79 years old or younger than 13 years old, there is no fee. However, they are still required to schedule an appointment for biometrics collection.
The only time the Form I-485 filing fee or biometric service fee is not required with an application is if the person is a refugee, qualifies for a fee waiver, or if a judge waives the fee (this happens if the person is deported prior to applying).
The check or money order must be payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. No cash is accepted. Filing fees for this form gradually increase over time, so it is important to check the USCIS website for the proper filing fee.
Biometric Services Appointment (For I485 Form)
After submitting your completed Form I-485 application and paying your filing and biometric services fees, you may have to appear for a biometric services appointment. This is a normal part of these proceedings. The USCIS website explains the biometric services appointment in more detail:
USCIS may require that you appear for an interview or provide fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature at any time to verify your identity, obtain additional information, and conduct background and security checks, including a check of criminal history records maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), before making a decision on your application, petition, or request. After USCIS receives your application and ensures it is complete, we will inform you in writing if you need to attend a biometric services appointment. If an appointment is necessary, the notice will provide you the location of your local or designated USCIS Application Support Center (ASC) and the date and time of your appointment. If you are an applicant (principal or derivative) filing Form I-485 with an immigration judge, you are required to comply with instructions you will receive during proceedings for submitting Form I-485 to USCIS with all relevant fees and for providing biometric and biographic information to USCIS.
If you are required to provide biometrics, at your appointment you must sign an oath reaffirming that:
- You provided or authorized all information in the application;
- You reviewed and understood all of the information contained in, and submitted with, your application; and
- All of this information was complete, true, and correct at the time of filing.
If you fail to attend your biometric services appointment, USCIS may deny your application. For applicants and derivatives who appear before an immigration judge, failure to attend a biometric services appointment, without good cause, may result in the immigration judge finding that your application was abandoned, and USCIS may also deny any other application, petition, or request you filed with USCIS.
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Form I-485 Instructions
Preparing Form I-485
According to the Form I-485 instructions, the entire application must be completed, supporting evidence and additional documents must be included, and the packet must be held together using a strong paper clip or one staple. Several applications can be submitted together. For instance, everyone in the family who is applying for green card status can send their applications in the same mailing. However, the packets must be held together with a rubber band, with a notation saying who the applications are (using their last names).
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website has more information on how to access and prepare Form I-485:
USCIS provides forms free of charge through the USCIS website. In order to view, print, or fill out our forms, you should use the latest version of Adobe Reader, which you can download for free at http://get.adobe.com/reader/. If you do not have Internet access, you may call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 and ask that we mail a form to you. For TTY (deaf or hard of hearing) call: 1-800-767-1833.
What Should the I-485 Packet Contain?
When completed, an application should have the following documents:
- Form I-485 with two photographs
- Form I-131 and/or Form I-765
- Other evidence
- Supporting documents
- Form I-864, the Affidavit of Support (if applicable)
- Form I-485 Supplement (if applicable)
- Form G-28, the Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative (if applicable- this is used if an attorney is representing you)
The USCIS has specific guidelines for the documentation provided. The photographs you submit must adhere to their specifications:
You must submit two recent identical color passport-style photographs of yourself. The photos must have a white to off-white background, be printed on thin paper with a glossy finish, and be unmounted and unretouched.
The two recent identical color passport-style photos must be 2 by 2 inches. The photos must be in color with full face, frontal view on a white to off-white background. Head height should measure 1 to 1 3/8 inches from top of hair to bottom of chin, and eye height is between 1 1/8 to 1 3/8 inches from bottom of photo. Your head must be bare unless you are wearing headwear as required by a religious denomination of which you are a member. Using a pencil or
felt pen, lightly print your name and A-Number (if any) on the back of the photo. Visit the following DOS website at travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/photos/photo-examples.html for examples.
The USCIS website also contains helpful information about the types of supporting documentation and other evidence required with your Form I-485. Here are some examples:
Government-Issued Identity Document with Photograph
All Form I-485 applicants should submit a photocopy of a government-issued identity document that has their photograph. Typically, this will be your passport or similar document, even if the passport is now expired. It can also be any other government-issued identity document such as a driver’s license or military identification document.
Birth Certificate for i485
All Form I-485 applicants, except refugees and asylees, must submit a photocopy of their birth certificate issued by the appropriate civil authority from the country of birth. Although refugees and asylees are not required to submit a photocopy of their birth certificate, if the birth certificate is available, refugees and asylees should submit a copy of the birth certificate. USCIS will only accept a long-form birth certificate which lists at least one parent.
If your birth certificate is unavailable or does not exist, you must prove its unavailability or nonexistence and provide acceptable alternative evidence of birth. (Refugees and asylees do not need to prove unavailability or nonexistence of their birth certificate.) You can look up your country of birth on the following website, travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/fees/reciprocity-by-country.html, to see if birth certificates are known to be unavailable or nonexistent in that country.
Certified Police and Court Records of Criminal Charges, Arrests, or Convictions
You must submit certified police and court records for any criminal charges, arrests, or convictions you may have.
Expert Instructions on Form I-485
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After submitting your forms, the next major step is the I-485 interview. After receiving a completed application, the USCIS sends the applicant an appointment notice with the date, time, and location of their I-485 interview. This interview is a normal part of the process, so an applicant should not think anything is wrong because they receive an interview.
Some applicants are allowed to skip the interview process, but it is rare. USCIS may decide not to interview certain applicants because the evidence submitted with their application is so strong.
The adjustment of status interview will generally take place at the nearest USCIS field office. The applicant may be required to take certain items with them to the interview. These items include a government-issued photo ID, appointment notice, and passport. They will know this ahead of time because it will be listed on the notice.
The I-485 interview lasts for about 25 minutes from the time of the swearing-in to the last question. The questions you are asked will vary depending on your eligibility category requirement. For instance, if you are eligible for a marriage-based green card, a lot of questions may be about your spouse. If you are not fluent in English, you may use an interpreter to help with the interview process. To learn more about immigration court proceedings, talk to an Atlanta immigration attorney or read our Georgia immigration page.
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Form I-485 Processing Time & Status
Your Form I-485’s processing time begins on the day the USCIS receives your application. All applications are reviewed in order. The I-485 processing time depends on many factors such as which facility the application was sent to and the reason for your status adjustment.
How Long Does it Take to Get Approval For I-485?
The USCIS provides estimates of the Form I-485 timeline but does not guarantee how long it will take to process the application. The current estimated time for a decision on a Form I-485 application is 10.5 to 23 months at the Atlanta, GA office. For family-based green card applications, the wait time varies from 11 months to 29 months. For employment-based residency adjustments, the processing time ranges from 9 months to almost 15 months.
You can check the status of your I-485 application here on the USCIS website or by calling the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Contact Center at 800-375-5283. If you are hard of hearing or have difficulty speaking, dial: TTY 800-767-1833. When you contact the USCIS, be prepared to provide information such as your receipt number, A-Number, name, and date of birth.
You may be contacted by USCIS during the processing of your I-485 application. They will typically contact you via mail, so it is important to keep your address up-to-date with USCIS during this time.
Here is USCIS’s summary of Form I-485 application processing steps:
Initial Processing. Once USCIS accepts your application we will check it for completeness. If you do not completely fill out this application, you will not establish a basis for your eligibility and USCIS may reject or deny your application.
Requests for More Information. We may request that you provide more information or evidence to support your application. We may also request that you provide the originals of any copies you submit. If USCIS or the Immigration Court requests an original document from you, it will be returned to you after USCIS or the Immigration Court determines it no longer needs your original.
Requests for Interview. We may request that you appear at a USCIS office for an interview based on your application. At the time of any interview or other appearance at a USCIS office, we may require that you provide your fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature to verify your identity and/or update background and security checks.
Decision. The decision on Form I-485 involves a determination of whether you have established eligibility for the immigration benefit you are seeking. USCIS will notify you of the decision in writing.
What If Your Form I-485 Is Denied?
Even though you spent a lot of time preparing for the interview and gathering documents, your application can still be denied.
However, know that denial doesn’t mean you lost your chance to adjust your status and start your journey towards becoming a green card holder. There are more options to consider, such as filing a Motion to Reopen or Motion to Reconsider with USCIS. For the Motion to Reopen, you have to file new evidence that may change the case’s outcome, which wasn’t previously available.
If you or your attorney think the USCIS made a factual or legal error in denying your application, you can file a Motion to Reconsider.
In addition, you can also reapply and submit your Form I-485 all over again. But, this time, make sure you have more substantial evidence that can be used to build a stronger case.
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