I-485: The Complete Guide

Updated on April 10, 2024
At a Glance: I-485 is the application form used to apply for U.S. permanent residency, also known as a Green Card. Different categories of people, such as family members, employment-based individuals, asylum seekers, and refugees, can file Form I-485. Required documents include fee payment, photos, biographical information, medical examination, birth certificate, passport page, and other supporting documents based on the category. The form should be filled out accurately and submitted to the appropriate address. The processing time for I-485 can range from 8 to 14 months, and attention to detail and compliance with USCIS guidelines are crucial for a successful application.

Are you looking to get U.S. permanent residency based on an Adjustment of Status? Do you need to find more information about a Green Card application? And what on earth is a Form I-485?

Below we take a look at some of the general questions you may have regarding an Adjustment of Status and how you can tackle your application to increase your chances of success.

What is I-485?

An I-485 is the actual form with which you apply for U.S. permanent residency. The USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) governs and regulates immigration matters within the U.S. and you need to comply with their requirements to gain your permanent residency (or also known as a Green Card).

There are different categories of people who use Form I-485 to apply for their Green Card (or Adjustment of Status in certain cases). Though they have different requirements and paperwork to add to their applications, all of them need to file an I-485 to request their permanent residency. It may get technical, so ask for the expert advice of an immigration attorney to help you navigate your unique situation to ensure a successful outcome.

Who Needs to File Form I-485?

As previously mentioned the Form I-485 is the main application form with which someone applies for U.S. permanent residency. So let’s have a look at the different categories of people who are eligible to file Form I-485.

Just note in some applications a petitioner (a U.S. permanent resident) files for permanent residency on behalf of the beneficiary (the person who will receive the Green Card).

Here is a shortlist of the different categories of people eligible for an I-485:

  • Family members of a U.S. permanent resident – Immediate relatives, children under the age of 21, dependents under the age of 21, and other family members deemed eligible by the USCIS.
  • Employment-based categories – People who gained the right to live and work here based on an employment-related visa.
  • Marriage-related categories – People who entered the U.S. on a K1 fiancé visa and/or who are married to a U.S. permanent resident.
  • Asylum seekers – People who have been granted asylum status by the U.S. government and fulfill the eligibility requirements set out by the USCIS.
  • Refugees – People with evidence of their refugee status and who comply with the eligibility requirements for permanent residency in their category.
  • Continuous residence in the U.S. since Jan 1, 1972 – people who have lived here since 1972 and who kept to the requirements throughout their stay.
  • Cuban citizenship/nationality – You’ll need proof or evidence of your citizenship.
  • Derivative status – You are eligible for permanent residency based on a visa granted to you or your dependent who is also eligible for permanent residency.
  • T or U-based nonimmigrants – These are people who are victims of human trafficking or other crimes and the category also includes their immediate family members.

It’s important to note here that everyone doesn’t follow the same procedures. The different categories of eligibility plus your unique situation will determine the types of documentation required by the USCIS in your request for permanent residency. So let’s move on to the required documents.

Required Documents for I-485

There are so many different categories of people eligible for an I-485. Therefore, for time’s sake, we are only going to review the basic documents applicable to every category. You can follow the instructions of online resources or better yet ask an immigration attorney to guide you through your unique immigration process.

Here are the basic documents required in every I-458:

  • Fee payment – The application fee must be included.
  • Form G28 (if applicable) – This form confirms that someone like an attorney or a representative files on your behalf.
  • I-485 – The application to register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status.
  • Photos – Two passport-style photos of the beneficiary.
  • I-765 Employment Authorization Document – An EAD is optional. This will grant you the right to work while your I-485 request is pending.
  • I-131 Application for Travel Document – It’s optional, but you need this if you want to travel abroad while your I-485 request is pending.
  • G325A – This is a biographic information sheet for people between the ages of 14 and 79 years of age.
  • I-693 – The Medical Examination of Aliens Seeking Adjustment of Status.
  • Birth certificate – Add a copy of your foreign birth certificate.
  • Copy of passport page with nonimmigrant visa – Submit a copy of the page in your passport which contains the visa allowing you entrance to the U.S.
  • Police clearances – Ask your immigration attorney if you need this. Many categories don’t need it.
  • Arrival and departure record – A Form I-94 or Border Cross Card. If you entered with a Border Cross Card, please supply a copy of both sides of the card.

How to Fill Out Form I-485

The basic do’s and don’ts when completing any documentation apply here. Your immigration attorney can also help to file the form on your behalf. Here are the basics you must be aware of:

  • Type or write legibly with black ink and don’t use a pencil.
  • You can attach an extra piece of paper with your name and alien registration number if you need extra space to answer some of the questions. Just mark the answers clearly according to the sections it refers to.
  • Answer all questions completely and truthfully. Mark any sections that don’t apply by either writing “N/A” or “None”, but don’t leave a blank space.

You can follow the more intricate instructions as provided by specialized online resources. You need to comply with the regulations and the guidelines established by the USCIS. Failing to do so may result in the rejection of your application and you may lose some money and time in the process.

Here is the basic order of the I-458 request application package:

  1. Fee payment
  2. Form G28 (if applicable)
  3. Form I-485 with two photos attached
  4. Form I-485 Supplement (if applicable)
  5. Form I-864 (if applicable)
  6. Form I-131 and/or form I-765
  7. Other evidence
  8. Supporting documentation (as required by your category).

The assembling of your application should follow the guidelines established by the USCIS. You can bind the application package with a large paperclip or strong staple. Again we say, refrain from making any errors since it will cause your application to be rejected and you will lose time in the process.

Where to File I-485

Your application category will determine the address to which you need to mail your application. Follow the instructions based upon the type of application category you choose. Make sure you supply them a mailing address to which you have regular access. They will use that address to send you important notices via post.

Filing Receipt

The USCIS will notify you when they receive your application. This is called an I-797C Notice of Action. Make a copy of this document and store both the copy and the original in a safe place. It contains your alien number which you’ll need to produce when you make future inquiries about your case. You will most probably get separate receipt notices if you’ve also filed a request for an EAD or Advance Parole.

How Much Does I-485 Cost?

The filing fee for an application depends on the age of the beneficiary and the nature of the request. Requests for people between the ages 14 and 79 costs $1,140, it also requires an extra $85 for the biometric screening test and that totals to $1,225.

A request for someone under the age of 14 filing with the request of a parent costs $750, but without a parent, it costs $1,140. People over the age of 79 don’t need to pay the biometric fee of $85.

I-485 Processing Time

The I-485 processing time can take anything from 8 to 14 months. This is obviously not taking into account any extra time lost due to errors caused by either you or the USCIS. It also doesn’t take into account the possible extra information or evidence requested by the USCIS.

Also, keep in mind you don’t have the guarantee of a successful application purely because you applied. You need to ensure the correctness and truthfulness of the request to minimize the time required and also increase your chances of success. A Premium Processing Service is only available for certain visas and, unfortunately, not for your permanent residency status request.

Stay informed about the proceedings regarding your case and don’t miss any appointments or interviews requested by the USCIS. The small details help to get your I-485 processed faster.

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Applying for your U.S. permanent residency can sometimes be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. Ask for the help of an immigration attorney and follow the guidelines listed above to help you increase your chances of success.

Ensure you and your dependents’ eligibility and file your I-485 request for Permanent Residency. You too can build your own American Dream!

>> Read More: Green Card Process Steps

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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