May 5, 2021

Form I-485: A Beginner’s Guide

Form I-485 is an important application used to register people to reside permanently in the United States. Those who are filing for a green card will need to fill out this application on their path toward permanent residence. Through this application, people will seek to adjust their status officially to “immigrant.” If this form is approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the person may reside in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. This guide will explain more about this immigration form and explain the process of filing it.

Related: How Long Does It Take to Get Citizenship After You Apply?

What is Form I-485?

As stated, Form I-485 is one of several immigration forms that you will need on the path to citizenship. The I-485 is an application to obtain a green card and live in the United States permanently. 

This form is commonly filed after Form I-130 is filed (a petition to prove a relationship with a U.S. citizen) or Form I-140 (an employment-based petition). For those seeking a green card via marriage or employment, you will need the I-485 to provide proof of eligibility to become a green card holder or permanent resident.


To be eligible for I-485 approval from the immigration services, you must meet the criteria from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Applicants will be able to apply based on qualifying in one of these categories. As you see from following the link, you will be able to select your unique case from the options to see if you are eligible for I-485 approval. 

When it comes to obtaining your green card via marriage, the foreign spouse must meet these criteria to be eligible to file the I-485: 

  • The spouse must have entered the U.S. on a valid visa (inspected and admitted at the border).
  • A visa must be “immediately available.”
  • The Form-130 must already be approved, or filed at the same time as the I-485

Brudner Law Banner

Eligibility Exclusions

The immigration services will not approve your I-485 application if you fall under the following conditions: 

  • If you are a spouse who is not currently in the U.S. 
  • You came to the U.S. to work as a crewman
  • You entered the U.S. under the pretense of traveling elsewhere
  • You are in the U.S. as an informant or witness in a law case
  • You are deemed deportable due to a terrorism affiliation

The following criteria will also render you unable to obtain a green card: 

  • You have a contagious disease or dangerous mental condition
  • You have had serious crime convictions
  • The United States deems you a threat
  • You have been dishonest or have previous immigration violations. 
  • You are too likely to become dependent on public benefits in the U.S. 
  • Other legal and ethical matters include a history of polygamy, child abduction, and others.

Supporting documents

You will need to mail these documents with your I-485 form that proves your eligibility for a green card. 

These are the other supporting documents you will need for seeking a green card through marriage: 

  • Documents that prove you came into the U.S. on a valid visa with your Form I-94 travel history. 
  • Proof of your foreign nationality, including your passport and birth certificate.
  • Any criminal and arrest records 
  • Medical examination forms from an authorized USCIS doctor
  • And for those seeking green cards via marriage: financial documents like tax returns that show the U.S. sponsoring spouse can support you while you apply for your green card

Helpful tips for filling out the form

woman standing near wall

Here are some tips that will help you fill out the I-485 as smoothly as possible: 

  • If you do not have a social security number or alien number (A#), you can write N/A or “not applicable.”
  • In Part 1 of the I-485, your “date of last arrival” means the most recent date you stepped into the U.S. This isn’t the date you first entered the U.S. unless the first time was the only time you entered. 
  • In Part 2 of the form, you will choose the reason you are eligible for a green card via the I-485. For most cases, you will fall under the boxes within 1.a to 1.c. However, this is an area you may want to discuss with your immigration lawyer
  • When filling out parts 3-7 of the form, be mindful that when disclosing affiliation with organizations, the United States may judge you “inadmissible” if they find any link to terrorist groups.

Related: Immigration Interview Questions You Need to Know

Additional Information for Form I-485 Applicants

Here are a few other things to consider if you're a Form-185 Applicant.

The Priority Date

The priority date plays a crucial role in the Form I-485 procedure, dictating when a person can submit an adjustment of status application. It is the date the USCIS receives the Form I-130 or Form I-140 petition. Once the petition is approved, the priority date establishes the applicant's position in the queue for a visa number necessary for lawful permanent residency.

The priority date's significance lies in the limited number of annual visas distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Consequently, an individual's priority date decides when they can apply for Form I-485 and their eligibility for a visa number.

Regularly checking the priority date is crucial for determining when someone can file Form I-485. The USCIS issues a monthly visa bulletin outlining each category's priority dates. Applicants must wait until their priority date is current before submitting Form I-485.

If an individual's priority date isn't current, they might have to wait several years before filing Form I-485. Sometimes, they could apply for an alternative visa category with a more favorable priority date.

The Biometrics Appointment

After submitting Form I-485, an individual will get a biometrics appointment notification from the USCIS. The biometrics appointment is essential for providing fingerprints, photos, and signatures to conduct background checks on the applicant.

Typically, the biometrics appointment is scheduled within several weeks or months following the submission of Form I-485. Therefore, attending the meeting is crucial to prevent application processing delays. Missing the appointment may lead to delays or even denial of the application.

The biometrics appointment usually occurs at a USCIS Application Support Center (ASC) near the applicant's residence. During the appointment, the applicant will be asked to provide their fingerprints, taken electronically using a scanner. Additionally, their photograph will be taken, and they'll sign their name on a digital signature pad.

Preparing for the biometrics appointment is vital by bringing the appointment notice and a valid government-issued photo ID, like a passport or driver's license.

Applicants should also dress suitably and refrain from wearing hats, sunglasses, or other items that could obstruct their face or identification.

Learn What Our Clients Are Saying About Brudner Law!

Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Advance Parole

After submitting Form I-485, an individual can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Advance Parole. An EAD permits a person to work in the U.S. At the same time their Form I-485 is being processed, an Advance Parole enables them to travel internationally while their Form I-485 is pending.

To apply for an EAD and/or Advance Parole, a person must file Form I-765 and/or Form I-131 with the USCIS. The filing fee for each form is $550. These forms can be filed concurrently with Form I-485 or separately.

Once a person's Form I-765 and/or Form I-131 are approved, they will receive an EAD and/or Advance Parole document, which they can use for work or travel while their Form I-485 is pending. The EAD is typically valid for a year and can be renewed if Form I-485 is still pending. The Advance Parole document is also generally valid for a year, allowing a person to travel abroad for up to a year.

It's essential to note that if a person travels internationally without Advance Parole while their Form I-485 is pending, their application might be considered abandoned. As a result, they may be unable to return to the U.S.

Denial and Appeal

After submitting Form I-485, an individual's application might be denied by the USCIS. If denied, the USCIS will offer a written explanation detailing the reason for the denial and the basis for any ineligibility.

In case of a Form I-485 denial, an individual may have the option to appeal with the USCIS or file a motion to reopen or reconsider the decision. The appeals process depends on the case's specific circumstances. 

Consulting an immigration lawyer is crucial to ascertain the most appropriate action plan.

When opting for an appeal, a person must file Form I-290B within a month after receiving the denial notice. The appeal should also be submitted to the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) and accompanied by the initial denial notice, the necessary filing fee, and any supporting documentation.

The AAO will evaluate the decision and issue a written response upon filing the appeal. The outcome could either confirm the initial denial, overturn it, or refer the case to the USCIS for further examination.

It is vital to recognize that the appeals procedure can be lengthy and intricate and might only sometimes result in a positive outcome. 

Therefore, collaborating with a seasoned immigration lawyer, like Brudner Law, who can assist in navigating the appeals process and build a solid case on behalf of the applicant, is of paramount significance.

Public Charge Rule

The Public Charge Rule is a policy enforced by the U.S. government to ascertain whether an individual seeking to enter or remain in the United States will likely become a "public charge," meaning they would primarily rely on government assistance for subsistence.

When deciding under the Public Charge Rule, the USCIS considers various factors, including an individual's age, health, income, education, and family status. The USCIS might also consider if a person has used particular government aid, such as Medicaid, SNAP, or public housing support.

In the past, the Public Charge Rule only pertained to those likely to need cash assistance or extended care in institutions. 

Nonetheless, in 2019, the U.S. government introduced an updated Public Charge Rule that broadened the public charge criteria and extended the range of examined benefits.

With the present Public Charge Rule, a person could be regarded as a public charge if they are likely to receive certain government benefits for more than 12 months within a 36-month timeframe. The rule also investigates whether an individual has specific medical issues or financial resources that could affect their ability to sustain themselves.

It is essential to highlight that the Public Charge Rule does not apply to every immigrant, and specific exemptions and exclusions exist. For example, refugees, asylees, and other humanitarian immigrants are typically exempt from the Public Charge Rule.


Who is Eligible to File Form I-485 to Adjust Status?

To apply for a green card, fill out Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. 

However, not just anyone can file Form I-485. Several criteria determine whether or not you are eligible to fill out Form I-485.

One of the most basic needs is to be physically present in the United States through legal methods. 

However, each category of Form I-485 eligibility has its own set of requirements.

Processing time

a man looking at his watch

The processing time for the I-485 can vary greatly as many immigration situations are highly unique and require a great amount of attention. You can expect an answer in a few months all the way up to a few years. If you have everything filled out correctly and fall within all the correct criteria to obtain your green card, expect a shorter timeline of a couple of months. 

I-485 vs. I-130

The main difference between these two forms is that Form I-130 is the first step to petition to bring you into the United States, whereas the I-485 is the second step in gaining your green card and residency. 

However, you may be eligible to file the I-130 and I-485 at the same time, which would the fastest way to proceed.

The immigration process can be incredibly difficult, but we are here to help you get your paperwork in order to gain permanent residence in the United States. Get in touch with Brudner Law to speak with expert lawyers who know what it means to be an immigrant and know what it takes to get you through the system quickly, legally, and safely. 

Related: When Do You Need an Immigration Lawyer?

Our Latest Blog

Our Recent Blogs

Navigate Your Future with

Embrace your Future with Brudner Law