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June 23rd 2023

The Complete Guide to Form I-485

Non-immigrants in the United States on a temporary visa who want to become green card holders need to apply for an Adjustment of Status using Form I-485. Learn more about the I-485 form here!

Non-immigrants in the United States on a temporary visa who want to become green card holders need to apply for an Adjustment of Status using Form I-485. Below, we provide an overview of Form I-485, including what it entails, the eligibility requirements and how to complete the application.

What is Form I-485? 

Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) is a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) form. It’s intended for use by foreign nationals visiting the U.S. who wish to change the status of their visa to permanent residence status.

Form I-485 allows you to apply for a green card while you are present in the United States. In other words, you will be able to complete visa processing without having to return to your home country. Non-immigrants who are outside of the United States and wish to obtain a visa may do so via consular processing within their home country.

USCIS assesses your Form I-485 after you fill it out. If USCIS confirms your application, your request for permanent residence will be granted, and your status will be changed from non-immigrant to immigrant. An immigrant status grants you the right to work and live in the United States indefinitely; you will also have the ability to apply to become a citizen through naturalization.

Green card eligibility requirements

In order to be apply for an adjustment of status or a green card, you must meet the eligibility requirements under one of the following categories:

  • Family-based green card

  • Employment-based green card

  • Special immigrant-based green card

  • Refugee or Asylum status green card

  • Human trafficking and crime victims green card

  • Victims of abuse green card

  • Registry-based green card

  • Green card via other categories

You can find out more about the eligibility requirements for each category and find out if you meet those requirements by visiting the Green Card Eligibility Categories page of the USCIS website.

In addition to meeting the eligibility requirements from one of the categories listed above, you must also be physically present in the United States in order to file Form I-485 and apply for a green card.

Who is allowed to file Form I-485?

The following aspiring applicants may file Form I-485:

  • Principal applicant. Generally, the principal applicant is the individual who qualified to adjust their visa status. They are also the person named as the beneficiary on the application. As a principal applicant, select which immigrant category you are applying for by choosing the correct box that denotes the category that relates to you.

  • Derivative applicant. The spouse or children of a principal applicant who are not beneficiaries of their own immigrant petition may be allowed to request an adjustment of status via the same category as the principal applicant. The spouse or children in this case are known as ‘derivative applicants,’ and like the principal applicant, they must select which immigrant category they are applying an adjustment of status for by selecting the box that denotes the category that relates them.

  • Other immigrant categories. If you are applying for an adjustment of status based on a category that is not based on a derivative applicant, you need to select the “other eligibility” box on the application and enter which immigrant category you are applying for. Examples of other immigrant categories include:

  • Polish or Hungarian parolee

  • Special immigrant who is not listed in Part 2, Item 1.c; employees of the Panama Canal, physicians and certain members of the U.S. armed forces

  • Registration as a permanent residence status that is based on the assumption of lawful admission to the United States

Who cannot apply for an Adjustment of Status? 

Typically, you will not be permitted to apply for an adjustment of status if at least one of the adjustment of status bars in section 245(a), (c), (d), and/or (c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act are applicable to you.

It’s important to note, however, that specific types of adjustment of status bars do not apply to: 

  • Immediate relatives of citizens of the United States

  • Applicants who are applying for an adjustment of status based on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

  • Certain types of special immigrants

  • Some types of employment-based applicants 

Additionally, if you have committed an unlawful act that goes against immigration laws, you will be considered inadmissible for a green card, such as if you committed a crime.

If you are considered inadmissible, you might qualify for a waiver of the ground of inadmissibility or another type of relief. If your application for a waiver or another form or relief is approved, there is a chance that your application to adjust status will also be approved.

Lastly, exchange visitors to the United States and certain nonimmigrants that hold an A, G, or E visa status are also ineligible to apply for an adjustment of status. 

What supporting documents are required?

When filing Form I-485, you will also need to file the necessary supporting documents. These documents serve as evidence that you are eligible for a green card. The type of supporting evidence that you will need to provide depend on the immigrant category under which you are applying; however, some of the documents that may be required include:

  • Two passport-type photos

  • A government-issued photo ID

  • A birth certificate (if a birth certificate is not available, religious, school or medical records may be used instead)

  • Form I-797 (Approval or Receipt Notice from the Form I-130 that was filed on your behalf)

  • Form I-874 (Affidavit of Support)

  • Certified records of all arrests, criminal charges or convictions

These are just some of the examples of the initial evidence you may need to file with Form I-485. You can find a full list of the evidence you will need by visiting the I-485 checklist page.

How to complete Form I-485

You can obtain a copy of Form I-485 on the I-485 page of the USCIS website. Simply download the form and print it out. From there, you can also access a complete list of instructions that highlights how to complete the form.

Make sure that you answer all questions fully and accurately. All answers should be printed or legibly written in black ink. Signatures must be handwritten, as stamped or typed signatures will not be accepted.

Is there a filing fee? 

Yes, there is a filing fee, and that fee varies depending on your age and how you are filing. Additionally, you may need to pay a biometrics services fee. The total cost of these fees can range from $750 to $1,225. To find a list of fees, visit the I-485 page of the USCIS website and navigate to the “Filing Fee” tab.

The takeaway

If you are a non-immigrant presently in the United States who would like to adjust your status to permanent resident, you can do so by completing and filing USCIS Form I-485. Before applying, however, make sure that you check the eligibility requirements. It’s also important that you submit all necessary supporting documentation.

Once your application has been assessed by USCIS, you should receive a written decision within 8 to 14 months; however, processing times may vary. If approved, you will become a green card holder and can legally live and work in the U.S. indefinitely.

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