Form I-485 is the primary application form used by would-be immigrants who are:
Only a very limited group of people fit both criteria, most often those who came to the United States on a temporary visa, but married a U.S. citizen; those who received asylum in the U.S; those who came on a temporary work visa such as an H-1B and had their employer sponsor them for a green card; and those who came to the U.S. as the fiancé of a U.S. citizen and got married before their fiance visa expired.
By contrast, people who entered the U.S. without inspection, or those who overstayed a visa and are not the immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, are usually not eligible to adjust status, even if they are otherwise eligible for a green card. They will need to use a procedure called Consular Processing.
Form I-485 itself is issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and available for free download on the I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status page of its website.
In this article, we take a closer look at how people who are eligible to adjust status should prepare this form and the supporting materials.
Warning: The coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in long delays in every part of the immigration process. As of May 2020, there is no way to complete the green card process while living in the U.S., owing to government office closures to in-person visits.
The questions on Form I-485 are reasonably straightforward, but a few of them might give you trouble. The following bits of guidance refer to the version of the form issued on 10/15/19.
In Part I, if you don't have a Social Security number or USCIS Online Account Number, you can enter "N/A" for "not applicable." The same goes for the "A#," meaning your Alien Number. You would only have one if you had prior contact with U.S. immigration services; for example, if you had already applied for an immigration benefit, or been placed in removal (deportation) proceedings.
(Note: If you have ever been in removal proceedings, you might not be eligible to apply for a green card at this time, or ever. Consult with an immigration attorney for a full analysis.)
In the "Recent Immigration History" portion of Part 1, the question on "Date of Last Arrival" means your most recent entry to the United States. Many applicants get confused and enter the date when they first came, but if you have since made even a short trip outside the U.S., you need to enter that date here. Providing your I-94 number is important because it helps prove that you entered with a visa or on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP); which is, for some applicants, crucial to proving their eligibility to adjust status instead of going through consular processing.
You don't need to fill in "Current immigration status" unless it has changed since when you last arrived in the U.S., with or without USCIS permission. If you are still in valid visa or other status (such as "B-1 visitor," "F-1 student," "K-1 fiance," or "asylee"), enter that. Or you could enter "OOS" for "out of status" if your permitted stay has expired, or "EWI" for "entered without inspection," if you never had a visa or permitted entry.
In Part 2, you will need to choose the basis of your eligibility for a U.S. green card. For most family and employment-based candidates, the answer is one of the boxes in "1.a." But consult an immigration attorney if you're not sure.
Parts 3 through 7 ask for more personal and immigration-related information, including about your parents, your marital history, and any children. Listing organizations that you are a member of is in most cases fine; and if you are adjusting as an asylee, you should certainly mention any group affiliations that you described as part of your asylum claim. However, if any of the groups you might name here are seen as the U.S. as having terrorist links, listing them here may make you inadmissible to the United States (that is, ineligible for a green card).
For the yes and no answers in Part 8, your answer should be "no" to most of them, as they also reflect grounds of inadmissibility. That doesn't mean you should check off all the "no" boxes without looking. Read them carefully, and if the true answer to any of them is "yes," or even "maybe," consult an immigration attorney. Giving false information on an immigration form can get you in as much trouble, or even more, then revealing a negative piece of true information.
On Question 61, under "Public Charge," "Yes" is actually the ideal answer. It would indicate that you're exempt from being found inadmissible as a likely "public charge" (someone who'll need government financial assistance) and don't have to submit USCIS Form I-944, the Declaration of Self-Sufficiency. Unfortunately, only a few categories of applicant are exempt, such as asylees, U visa and VAWA applicants, and special immigrant juveniles.
Similarly, in Question 62, it would make your case easier if you could claim an exemption from having your U.S. petitioner fill out an I-864 Affidavit of Support on your behalf.
Part 9 gives you a chance to ask for the assistance you might need if you are disabled; for example, to have a medical caregiver accompany you into the interview. Do not hesitate to use this if you need it.
Part 10 requires you to sign the form. Parents can sign on behalf of children; just write their name, and then write "by [your name], parent." Notice that by signing, young men are agreeing to have their name put into the "Selective Service" list, which will be used to call upon them if the U.S. ever reinstates a military draft.
If you are filling this form out on your own, you can leave the rest blank. If someone else is filling it out on your behalf, they will know how to fill in Parts 11 and 12.
Part 13 shouldn't be filled in until your interview.
Part 14 is an extra page, upon which you can enter information that didn't fit in the earlier portion of the form.
Form I-485 is the main piece of your adjustment of status packet, but it is by no means the only piece.
Different people need to attach different backup forms and evidence depending on their individual immigration situations. Here's what you most likely need to submit with your completed Form I-485 for starters:
Carefully read the instructions that come with Form I-485 to find out what else you need to include. You will submit the Adjustment of Status packet by mail to USCIS. (You cannot submit it in person.)
Some months after submitting it, you will be called in for fingerprinting (biometrics). A few weeks or months after that, you will be called in for a personal interview at a USCIS office, where your permanent residence will be granted or denied.
Determining your eligibility for a green card and to adjust status, and filing Form I-485 and the other needed forms and documents, is a complicated process and requires organization and thoroughness. Consulting an immigration attorney before you begin the application can be a wise move, as well as cost effective, given the value of your time and what is at stake here.