I-485 Adjustment of Status
Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is used by a person in the United States to adjust his or her nonimmigrant status to that of a permanent resident. It is the final step of a long journey to green card.
How Long Does It Take to Receive Approval for My I-485 Application?
It varies dramatically from case to case, and from center to center. It also depends on your petition category (EB2 vs. EB3, for example). The bottleneck in I-485 processing used to be background checks, especially FBI name check. It was impossible to predict how long the background investigation would last. In some cases, it could take several years. However, the situation has improved since mid-2008. USCIS claims that as of March 2009, all FBI name check cases pending more than six months have been cleared. In fact, the FBI is completing over 99% name check requests within 30 days.
Along with the good news on background checks, however, visa retrogression has significantly worsened. You must have an immigrant visa number available to you before your I-485 can be approved, which means your priority date (PD) has to be earlier than the cut-off dates established in the visa bulletin for your immigration category. If you have cleared all security checks, and your PD is current, and your I-485 received date (RD) is within USCIS processing window, you can probably expect an approval from a few months to one year.
How Do I Check the Status of My I-485 Adjustment of Status Application?
- I-485 Tracker: Know your position in the green card line
- Check USCIS case status online, by phone/email, or in person
- Contact USCIS and other U.S. government agencies
What Documents Do I Need to Submit in My I-485 Application Package?
Please refer to the Employment-Based I-485 Documents Checklist further down in this article.
Who May File I-485:
- A person with an underlying immigrant petition (I-130, I-140), or will file along with an immigrant petition concurrently, and a visa number is available (this group include most family-based and employment-based applicants);
- A spouse or child (derivative) of a principal applicant who files I-485;
- A K-1 fiance(e) of a US citizen or a K-2 dependent (I-130 not required);
- A K-3 spouse of a US citizen or a K-4 dependent (I-130 required);
- A foreign investor with an underlying Form I-526;
- A person with an underlying Form I-360 (pending, approved, or concurrently filed, depending on categories);
- A person in asylum or refugee status;
- A Cuban native or citizen;
- A person qualified for “Registry” provision (living in US since before 1/1/1972);
Who is Not Eligible for Adjustment of Status:
(Except for Categories with Special Rules Such As 245(i), Asylum, etc.)
- A person not admitted or paroled following inspection by an immigration officer;
- A person’s authorized stay expired before filing i-485;
- A person with unauthorized employment;
- A nonimmigrant who failed to maintain status (exceptions apply);
- A crewman or a person entered in transit without a visa;
- A J-1 visitor without a foreign residence waiver;
- A K-1 fiance(e) who didn’t marry the US citizen petitioner;
- A visitor under the Visa Waiver Program, unless applied as an immediate relative of an US citizen;
Also see an important Memo from Donald Neufeld on 245(k). Exemptions to the 245(c)(2), (c)(7) and (c)(8) Bars to Adjustment for Certain Employment-Based Adjustment of Status Applicants.
What is a LUD?
A LUD stands for Last Updated Date, referring to the last date USCIS took an action on your case. You may find LUD’s for your I-485, or any other case you filed with the USCIS and have received a receipt number, using the online case status checking system. LUD is not an official term, but is frequently used by internet users.
What does My USCIS Case Number Mean?
USCIS assigns a 13-character case number (receipt number) to each application, for example: SRC 06 012 54321. A case number is structured like this: AAA-XX-YYY-Z-MMMM:
|AAA:||The service center or office that received your case.|
|SRC – Texas Service Center (TSC, formerly Southern Regional Center)
LIN – Nebraska Service Center (NSC, Lincoln, NE)
WAC – California Service Center (CSC, formerly Western Adjudication Center)
EAC – Vermont Service Center (VSC, formerly Eastern Adjudication Center)
MSC – Missouri Service Center (MSC, transitioned to NBC)
NBC – National Benefits Center (NBC, for N-400, I-90 and other cases)
|XX:||The fiscal year of USCIS, from October 1 to September 30. Cases filed from 10/01/2006 to 09/30/2007 will have xx = 07|
|YYY:||The working day of the fiscal year when your case is received. 10/01 = 001|
|Z:||This digit is part of a serial number but may have certain meanings for USCIS internal use.|
|MMMM:||A serial number assigned to your case based on the number of cases received, starting from 0001|
Is an Interview Required?
Employment-based I-485 cases are often adjudicated without interviews. But if your case is complicated such as involving prior arrests, you may be asked to go through an interview before your I-485 can be approved. USCIS will forward your case to a local office under such conditions. Marriage-based applicants are usually required to attend USCIS interviews.
What is a RFE?
RFE stands for Request For Evidence. USCIS will send you a RFE when they need more information from you, such as missing or incomplete documents in your application. It doesn’t mean your case will be denied or approved soon, although after long delays in security checks, a RFE may be a good sign that your case is moving again.
It is very important to respond to a RFE before the deadline. On June 18, 2007, new Flexible Response Times for RFE and NOID (Notice of Intent to Deny) took effect and they are now considerably shorter than the standard 3-month timeframe. So it is more important than ever to respond to a RFE/NOID before the deadline.
Standard Timeframe (calendar days)
|To submit initial evidence that the form requires the applicant or petitioner to file||
|To submit evidence that Form I-539 (extension of stay or change in status) requires||
|To submit evidence available in the United States regardless of form type||
|To submit evidence available from overseas sources regardless of form type||
Should I Apply for EAD and AP while Filing I-485?
EAD and AP are not necessary for certain applicants, but for many people, it is highly recommended that they apply for EAD and AP at the same time they file I-485.
Should I Maintain my Nonimmigrant Status after Filing I-485?
It depends on what nonimmigrant status you are in. Generally speaking, you are under lawful “adjustment of status (AOS)” once you’ve filed I-485. If you also obtained EAD and AP, you will be able to work and travel without the need for a visa. But if you are in a visa status that allows “dual intent,” such as H-1B and L1, it makes sense to keep your nonimmigrant status while your AOS is pending. This way if your AOS application is denied, you don’t risk falling out of status right away and will have more time to seek solutions. However, renewing H-1B or other non-immigrant status can be expensive and time consuming, so many employers or applicants themselves are unwilling to do so once I-485 has been filed.
What is “Authorized Stay?”
Certain people with accrued unlawful presence in the United States may still be eligible to apply for Adjustment of Status (under 245(i), for example). Such applicants, with properly filed and pending I-485, are considered “present in the US under a period of stay authorized by the attorney general.” There are other cases, such as change of nonimmigrant status and refugee/asylee applications, where an applicant may be considered in such “authorized stay” status by the DHS. Note that “authorized stay” does not mean the alien is in “lawful status,” but during “authorized stay” an alien would not accrue “unlawful presence.”
Does a Speeding Ticket Need to be Reported during I-485 Application?
No, if it is just a traffic violation and the only penalty is a fine of less than $500 and/or points on your driver’s license. A parking ticket doesn’t need to be reported either. However, if the violation was drug or alcohol related (DUI), or otherwise an arrest was made during the incident, you must report it on your I-485 application.
Properly declaring and documenting any criminal history is critical for an I-485 application. If you were ever arrested or detained by any law enforcement officer for any reason, be prepared to provide supporting documents during the immigration process even if no charges were ever filed against you, you were never convicted or your arrest/conviction was vacated, sealed, or otherwise legally removed from your record. For this reason it is best to consult a qualified immigration professional to make sure you are handling your application properly.
Am I Allowed to Change Jobs with a Pending I-485?
Yes. If your adjustment of status case has been pending more than 180 days, and you have an approved I-140, you are permitted to change employers under AC-21.
How Long Does It Take to Receive Green Card After I-485 Approval?
The USCIS has been very quick nowadays to produce and mail out green cards once they approve the applications. Many people reported receiving their cards within one to two weeks, after “Card Production Ordered” confirmation. So in most cases it is no longer necessary to have your passport stamped as evidence that you have become a permanent resident.
Do I Still Need H1B, EAD, or AP After I485 Approval?
No. Your green card authorizes you to permanently live and work in the United States. You may also use your green card to return to the US after trips that last less than one year. If you plan to reside outside the US for one year or more, you need to apply for an reentry permit before your departure.
Do I Need a New Social Security Card After I-485 Approval?
You can apply for a Corrected Social Security Card that will remove the restriction on work authorization. Your SSN number remains the same.
Can I Get a Green Card without Filing I-485?
Yes, you may go through Consular Processing which requires a trip to a US embassy or consulate abroad. This is also the typical route for people who are outside the United States but wish to apply for green card from a foreign country. If successful, you will receive an immigrant visa and enter the U.S. as a permanent resident.
Checklist of forms and supporting documents for I-485
- Form I-485 (type or print in black ink, answer all questions, use N/A or “none” when necessary, and don’t forget to sign it!);
- Form I-485A, Supplement A, if filed under 245(i);
- Fee payment checks;
- Form G-325A, Biographic Information Sheet, for applicants between 14 and 79 years of age;
- Approval notice for I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker;
- Form I-693, Medical Examination, signed and sealed by a designated physician;
- Form G-28, if you have an attorney representing your case;
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (EAD), optional but recommended;
- Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (Advance Parole – AP), optional but recommended;
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, if applicable;
- Passport photos, 2″x2″ full face color frontal view on a white or off-white background (although USCIS now uses your photos taken during fingerprint appointment);
- Birth certificate, or other records of your birth (for example, notarized birth documents for Chinese nationals);
- Passport pages with non-immigrant visas (some immigration lawyers ask for copies of all pages, just to be safe);
- Arrest and criminal history. Even if no charges were filed, or all charges were dismissed, or any conviction was vacated, sealed, expunged or otherwise removed from your record, they still need to be reported and accompanied with certified documents and court orders. Consult an immigration attorney if you are not sure whether a particular incident was considered an arrest;
- Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, if you file as a derivative, (this is different from I-864);
- Employment verification letter from sponsoring employer, on a company letterhead, stating your salary, position and the job is still available;
- Tax returns for the previous two years;
- W-2 forms for the previous two years;
- Recent pay stubs;
- Degree certificates;
- All previous EAD’s including student practical training;
- All I-94 cards used to enter the US;
- All I-20 and I-797 forms, required by some law firms;
If I-485 is filed concurrently with I-140, add:
- Form I-140 or receipt of a pending I-140;
- A labor certification or request for a national interest waiver;
- Supporting cover letter from employer;
- Employment verification letters from previous jobs;
- Other evidence that you meet LC requirements;
- Evidence that the employer has the ability to pay the wage.
Note 1: This is not an exclusive list, rather it is for references only. Each case is unique, and each law firm may have different requirements.
Note 2: Unless specifically stated that original documents are required, legible photocopies should be used for all supporting documents.
Note 3: Any document containing foreign language shall be accompanied by a full English language translation which the translator has certified as complete and accurate. The translator must also certify he or she is competent to translate from the foreign language into English.
Comments or questions are welcome.