Understanding Form I-485: Your Guide to Adjustment of Status

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Overview of USCIS Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status)

Form I-485, also known as the Application for Adjustment of Status, is a crucial step for individuals seeking U.S. permanent residency through family-based applications, following the submission of Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative). For spouses undergoing the marriage green card process, Form I-485 verifies their eligibility for permanent residency. The individual applying for this adjustment is referred to as the "applicant."

In scenarios where the spouse is currently in the U.S., it's possible to submit both Form I-130 and Form I-485 simultaneously, a procedure referred to as "concurrent filing."

Form I-485 Processing Timeline

Family-Based Applications: Currently, the processing time ranges from 10 to 23 months, though this can vary significantly based on the applicant's category and the specific USCIS field office handling the case.

Employment-Based Applications: If the adjustment is sought through employment, Form I-140 must be approved before proceeding with Form I-485.

Duration from I-485 Submission to Green Card Issuance

The timeline from filing Form I-485 to actually receiving a green card can vary widely, from several months to a few years. This duration is influenced by several factors:

  1. Adjustment Eligibility: The applicant's eligibility for status adjustment plays a critical role.
  2. Nature of Family Relationship: For family-based adjustments, the relationship with the U.S. citizen sponsor can impact the processing time.
  3. USCIS Service Center: The specific USCIS Service Center processing the application also affects the timeline.

Expedited Processing and Costs for Form I-485

Requesting Expedited Processing for Form I-485

While premium processing is unavailable for Form I-485 (Application for Adjustment of Status), applicants may request expedited processing through the USCIS Contact Center. It's essential to have your 13-digit USCIS receipt number ready to facilitate your request to the appropriate office.

Cost of Filing Form I-485

As of January 31, 2024, the government filing fee for a standalone Form I-485 application is $1,440. Please note, this fee is subject to change and will increase to $1,440 effective April 1, 2024. In certain circumstances, the fee may be reduced or waived depending on the applicant’s situation.

Eligibility for Filing Form I-485

Who Can File Form I-485?

Form I-485 can be filed by applicants who fall into one of seven major eligibility categories:

  1. Family-based
  2. Employment-based
  3. Special immigrant
  4. Asylum or refugee
  5. Victims of human trafficking or other crimes
  6. Special programs
  7. Additional options

These categories are further broken down into 27 subcategories to accommodate various applicant circumstances. Specifically, for a marriage-based green card, the foreign spouse must be physically present in the U.S. and have entered on a valid visa. An immigrant visa must also be immediately available at the time of filing, which usually means that Form I-130 has been approved, or it is being concurrently filed with Form I-485 in the case of spouses of U.S. citizens.

Who Cannot File Form I-485?

Certain conditions prevent the filing of Form I-485, including:

  1. Non-presence in the United States.
  2. Entry into the U.S. as a crewman, for transit, or as a witness or informant.
  3. Involvement in terrorist activities or associations with terrorist groups, which make an individual deportable.

Inadmissibility Grounds for Form I-485

When applying for an adjustment of status through Form I-485, certain factors may disqualify you based on "inadmissibility" grounds. These are specific conditions that can prevent you from being eligible to receive a green card:

  1. Health-Related Grounds: Includes having a communicable disease or a serious mental health condition that poses a threat.
  2. Criminal Grounds: Involvement in certain crimes can lead to disqualification.
  3. Security Grounds: If you are considered a threat to national security.
  4. Immigration Law Violations: Previous violations of U.S. immigration laws.
  5. Public Charge Grounds: If there is a high likelihood of becoming dependent on government assistance.
  6. Other Grounds: Miscellaneous reasons like entering the U.S. to practice polygamy, involvement in international child abduction, or unlawful voting.

In some cases, depending on the family relationship or specific green card category, waivers may be available to overcome these grounds of inadmissibility.

Required Supporting Documents for Form I-485

To ensure your Form I-485 application is processed efficiently, it is vital to include all necessary supporting documentation:

  1. Proof of Lawful Entry: Include a copy of the visa used to enter the U.S. and the I-94 travel record.
  2. Nationality of Foreign Spouse: A copy of the birth certificate and foreign passport.
  3. Financial Support Evidence: Documentation from the sponsoring spouse, such as the latest federal income tax returns and pay stubs, along with the required "Affidavit of Support."
  4. Criminal Records: If there have been any arrests, include a certified copy of the court record showing that there was no conviction.
  5. Medical Examination: A completed medical examination report from a USCIS-approved doctor is necessary. You can locate a qualified doctor through the USCIS 'find a doctor' tool.

Proactive Approach to Application Preparation

If you don't have all the required documents immediately available, you can still begin your I-485 application process. Gathering the necessary documentation as you go allows you to streamline the process and ensure you meet all requirements without unnecessary delays.

Utilizing Secondary Evidence for Form I-485 Applications

Necessity of Secondary Evidence

When primary documents required for your Form I-485 are unavailable, USCIS mandates the submission of alternative documents, known as "secondary evidence," to facilitate the adjudication of your application.

Examples of Secondary Evidence

If you cannot access your birth certificate, start by obtaining a certification from the relevant governmental agency in your home country stating that the document is unavailable. Following this, you can provide documents that validate the facts of your birth, such as baptismal records, school records, or census records, which should detail your date and place of birth and your parents' names.

In cases where such documents are also unavailable, affidavits from two individuals who have direct knowledge of your birth may be submitted. These individuals could be relatives or family friends who can attest to your birth details. Each affidavit must contain the author’s full name, address, date of birth, and detailed knowledge of your birth, including how they obtained this information.

Public Charge Considerations in Form I-485

As of December 2022, a revised Form I-485 includes sections to assess the likelihood of an applicant becoming a public charge. This update follows the Biden administration's finalized public charge rule in September 2022, replacing the previous version under the Trump administration. Applicants must now provide details such as household size, income, assets, liabilities, educational background, and any government assistance received. This information helps determine whether an applicant might rely on public benefits in the future.

When primary documentation is missing, providing thorough and valid secondary evidence is crucial in supporting your Form I-485 application. Viewing the adjustment of status process as an opportunity to establish your eligibility for a green card is essential. Adequate preparation, particularly in the context of the public charge determination, can significantly impact the outcome of your application.

Last Updated 05/24/24 02:04:00AM

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