Your Complete Guide to Submitting Form I-485, Register Permanent Residence

Your Complete Guide to Submitting Form I-485, Register Permanent Residence

Are you ready to become a legal permanent resident in the United States? Then, you’ll need to complete Form I-485.

Once the USCIS approves your Form I-485, you’ll receive your green card via mail, allowing you to enjoy the benefits and responsibilities of being a lawful permanent resident, including living and working permanently anywhere in the United States.

With your green card, you can travel freely outside the U.S. and return, so long as you don’t abandon your residence. You’ll have access to educational and healthcare benefits. After meeting certain residency requirements, you can also apply to become a U.S. citizen.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of filling out Form I-485, provide step-by-step instructions, and answer common questions.

We will cover everything from understanding the purpose of Form I-485 to gathering the necessary documents and submitting your application to USCIS. So let’s get started!

What Is Form I-485?

Form I-485 is the official application form used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to determine an individual’s eligibility for adjustment of status to permanent resident status. This form is for individuals already in the United States.

Filling out Form I-485 is more convenient and efficient than consular processing because it allows you to remain in the United States while your application is being processed. Once your application is approved, you will receive a green card, granting you the right to live and work permanently in the United States.

Who Can Submit Form I-485?

The main avenues for submission are family, employment, diversity lottery, or humanitarian programs. Individual circumstances determine specific eligibility to file Form I-485.

Here is an overview of who can submit Form I-485 to apply for a green card:

  • Family-based applicants – Those with an approved Form I-130 petition from a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative, including spouses, children, parents, and, in some cases, siblings.
  • Employment-based applicants – Those with an approved I-140 immigrant worker petition filed by their employer. Common categories are EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 visas for skilled workers, professionals, and other employment categories.
  • Diversity visa lottery winners – Individuals who won the annual Diversity lottery can apply.
  • Refugees and asylees – Those who obtained refugee status can apply for a green card later.
  • Other special cases – Victims of crimes or human trafficking, special immigrant juveniles, and certain parolees may also be eligible.
  • Adjustment from other statuses – Those already in the U.S. on non-immigrant visas like F-1, J-1, H-1B, L-1, etc., may apply to adjust their status to permanent resident if eligible.

What Documents Should You Include With Form I-485?

To submit Form I-485, you must include all the required initial evidence and supporting documentation to prove your eligibility for permanent resident status.

While the specific documents may vary depending on your circumstances, here is a list of documents you should include with your application:

  • Include a copy of your I-130 petition if you are filing concurrently with Form I-485.
  • Submit Form I-693 (Report of Immigration Medical Examination and Vaccination Record) with your application to show that you have undergone a medical examination by a USCIS-approved doctor and are admissible to the United States.
  • Include a copy of your valid passport, birth certificate, or other official document proving your identity.
  • Provide documentation that proves your lawful entry into the United States, such as a copy of your visa, I-94 travel record, or other relevant entry document. You must follow the 90-day rule by not violating the terms of your admission for at least 90 days following entry.
  • If you are filing as a family member of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, include evidence of your relationship, such as a marriage certificate, birth certificate, or adoption decree.
  • If you have a financial sponsor, include a completed and signed Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, to demonstrate that you will have adequate financial resources in the United States.
  • If you wish to work while your application is being processed, include a completed and signed Form I-765 to request an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

This list is not exhaustive; additional documentation may be required depending on your circumstances. Always refer to the USCIS instructions for Form I-485 and consult with an immigration attorney if you have any questions or concerns about the required documents.

Tips for Submitting Supporting Documents

To ensure a smooth and successful application process, consider the following tips when submitting your supporting documents:

  • Make sure all documents are clear and legible. If necessary, provide translations of any documents not in English.
  • Include photocopies of original documents unless specifically required to submit originals.
  • Organize your documents and include a cover sheet listing the documents you submit.
  • Keep copies of all documents for your records.
  • If your documents have two-sided pages, copy both sides of each page.

Remember, providing all the required documents and ensuring their accuracy and completeness will help USCIS process your application without additional requests or delays.

Filling Out Form I-485: A Step-by-Step Guide

Part 1: Information About You

When providing your personal information, use your current legal name as it appears on your passport or other official documents. If you have legally changed your name due to marriage or other reasons, you must use your new lawful name. List any previously used names, like maiden names, so that USCIS can check records accurately.

For the immigration information, carefully review your latest I-94 record and have that arrival-departure number available to enter on the form. Note your place of last arrival to the U.S.: the airport, border crossing, or seaport where you legally entered the country.

Overall, be thorough, consistent, and accurate in Part 1 by double-checking your details against your documentation.

Part 2: Application Type or Filing Category

In this section, you’ll identify the filing category relevant to your situation. There are seven broad categories with more specific situations listed under each. For example, the family-based category has five sub-categories: immediate relative, other relative, fiance, widow or widower, or Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) application.

Skip the “245(i) adjustment” option unless you entered the U.S. unlawfully. This section does not apply to most applicants.

Finally, if you’re the principal applicant, you’ll provide additional information about your immigrant category.

Part 3: Additional Information About You (continued)

In this part, you’ll provide your address history for the last five years, with complete addresses and dates. You can estimate dates if you can’t remember exactly. You’ll also provide the previous five years of employment history.

Employment is not a requirement for eligibility, and if you haven’t worked during a particular period, indicate “Unemployed.” However, if you’ve been employed within the United States, ensure you have proper authorization to work. For certain applicants, unauthorized employment can lead to a denial of Form I-485.

Part 4: Information About Your Parents

In Part 4, you’ll provide information about your parents. The USCIS will use this information for the background check.

Part 5: Information About Your Marital History

This section is vital for applying for permanent residence based on marriage. Provide accurate information about your current and former spouses and include evidence that previous marriages have ended.

Part 6: Information About Your Children

If you have living children, you’ll need to provide their information, regardless of age. In this section, you’ll include biological, step, and adopted sons and daughters. Even if your children are not immigrating, list them here, and be prepared to file separate applications for each child if they are adjusting their status.

Part 7: Biographic Information

USCIS uses this information for biometric identification and statistical purposes. For race and ethnicity, select from the provided options and choose the one(s) that you most closely identify with. Then, provide your height, weight, eye color, and hair color. Select only one box for each.

Part 8: General Eligibility and Inadmissibility Grounds

This part covers various waivers of inadmissibility for permanent residence. Carefully read each question and answer truthfully. Although a “Yes” answer can raise concerns, there are valid reasons for these answers that may not negatively impact your application. Misrepresentation or dishonesty can harm your case, so if you have doubts, consult with your immigration attorney.

List your current and past affiliations with organizations in the United States or other countries, including military service. USCIS may assess affiliations with organizations that conflict with American democratic principles or are illegal. Use your discretion to determine if your involvement with a group or organization aligns with these principles.

Several questions ask if you have ever been arrested or convicted of any crimes. You must disclose all arrests and convictions, even expunged or sealed records. This part also includes questions about your debts and education.

Other questions ask about your involvement in controlled substance trafficking, prostitution, money laundering, human trafficking, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, or terrorist activities. You may need to provide related documentation.

You’ll also be asked if you have ever been inadmissible, deported or removed from the U.S., or ordered to leave. You must provide details concerning dates, locations, and circumstances.

Finally, in the miscellaneous conduct section, you’ll need to provide information about whether you have illegally voted, renounced U.S. citizenship, been convicted of desertion from U.S. armed forces, or plan to practice polygamy.

Part 9: Accommodations for Individuals With Disabilities or Impairments

USCIS provides reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities and impairments to enable their full participation in USCIS programs and benefits. The type of accommodation varies based on the individual’s disability or impairment. If you require accommodations, indicate “Yes” and describe the accommodation needed.

Part 10: Applicant’s Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, Certification, and Signature

In this section, please specify whether you have completed Form I-485 independently or with the assistance of an interpreter or preparer. You must accurately disclose any involvement, even if a family member or friend prepared the application. Provide your contact information to enable USCIS to reach you. Direct phone contact is infrequent; communication will primarily occur via email or mail. Don’t forget to sign this section.

Part 11: Interpreter’s Contact Information, Certification, and Signature

While fluency in English is not a prerequisite for permanent residence, you must comprehend the application and accompanying I-485 instructions. If you have received assistance from an interpreter, they must sign this section and provide their contact information.

Part 12: Signature From Preparer

If you prepared the application, you do not need to complete this section. But, if another individual prepared the application, regardless of whether or not it was an attorney, they must provide their contact information and signature as well.

Part 13: Signature at Interview

You will complete this section during your interview with USCIS. In this section, you must confirm that everything submitted in the application and during the interview is true.

Where to Submit Form I-485

When you complete Form I-485 and gather the necessary supporting documents, submit your application to USCIS. The filing address will depend on your eligibility category and state of residence. To find the correct filing address for your application, visit the USCIS website or consult an immigration attorney.

Filing Fees for Form I-485:

You must also include the required filing fee with your application. The fee is dependent on your eligibility category and age. To determine the exact filing fee for your application, refer to the USCIS website or consult with an immigration attorney.

Individuals under 14 and applying with at least one parent$750
Under 14 and filing without a parent$1,225
Age 14-78$1,225
Age 79 or older$1,140

Requesting Expedited Processing

In certain circumstances, you may be eligible to request expedited processing for your Form I-485 application. Expedited processing is reserved for cases that meet specific criteria, such as severe financial loss, urgent humanitarian reasons, or compelling U.S. government interests. To request expedited processing, contact the USCIS Contact Center and provide them with the necessary information and documentation to support your request.

Checking the Status of Your Application

After submitting your Form I-485, you can check the status of your application on the USCIS website. You will need your receipt number, which can be found on the notice USCIS sends you after they receive your application. The online status check provides updates on the progress of your application and any additional actions you need to take.

Form I-485 Frequently Asked Questions

What is the processing time for I-485?

Processing times can fluctuate frequently due to USCIS workload and resources.’

Some categories have faster processing times. For example, for immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, processing times can be as little as about nine months, while in other cases, processing times can range from one to five years.

Filing complete applications with sufficient evidence, responding promptly to USCIS requests, and following up on pending cases will help reduce unnecessary delays.

It’s best to check the current USCIS processing time website, which provides estimates by field office and form type.

Can I stay in the U.S. while my I-485 is being processed?

Generally, you may remain in the U.S. while your form is being processed. You should consult with an immigration attorney to understand your specific situation and ensure you meet all the eligibility and compliance requirements.

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

Applicants use Form I-485 to adjust their status to a lawful permanent resident and get a green card. The foreign national submits the form. A U.S. citizen or green card holder uses Form I-130 to establish a qualifying relationship with a foreign national relative who wishes to immigrate. In this case, the petitioning U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident submits the form.

Form I-485 approval results in a green card, while Form I-130 establishes a qualified family relationship.

What is the a-number on Form I-485?

The a-number refers to the alien registration number, a unique identification number assigned to non-U.S. citizens.

Is Form I-485 approval the same as a green card?

After Form I-485 approval, you’ll receive a green card in the mail. The form itself is not the green card.

How much does it cost to file I-130 and I-485 together?

If you file I-130 concurrently with Form I-485, the cost is $1,760. The filing fee for Form I-130 is $535.

What is next after I-485 is approved?

Once your I-485 is approved, you will receive an official approval letter and notice in the mail confirming your new lawful permanent resident status. Be sure to review this letter thoroughly for any important instructions from USCIS.

Within a few weeks, you should receive your physical green card in the mail. Carefully check that all the information on the card is accurate. If there are any errors, you must report them to USCIS immediately to get a corrected card issued.

Now that you are a green card holder, one of the first things you should do is update your status with your employer and any other entities that need to know, as you are now authorized to live and work permanently in the U.S.

If you travel internationally, you must return within 12 months, or your green card could be considered abandoned. If you need to stay abroad longer than a year, you can apply for a reentry permit.

From now on, remember that as a green card holder, you have ongoing responsibilities.

  •  If you move or change your address, you must notify USCIS within ten days of moving to ensure you receive important notifications from them.
  • You must file taxes properly.
  • You should not remain outside the U.S. for prolonged periods.
  • Renew your green card every ten years.
  • After five years (or three years if married to a citizen), you can apply for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen.

Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. Can Help You Navigate the Green Card Process

The green card application process can be complex and challenging, especially when it involves family members or maintaining your eligibility to stay in the U.S. at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C., we are committed to assisting immigrants like you achieve their citizenship goals.

Our experienced immigration attorneys understand the nuances of the application process and can provide expert guidance and support at every step.

Whether you need assistance obtaining a missing birth certificate, addressing discrepancies in your documentation, or exploring alternative evidence, our team is here to help. We offer personalized, client-focused immigration services to ensure your green card journey is as smooth and successful as possible.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards confidently securing your green card.

We're looking forward to hearing from you!