Understanding Form I 485 Instructions and How to Apply to Register as a Permanent Resident
Understanding the Form I-485 instructions is crucial if you plan to adjust your status as an immigrant to the United States. Learn more here.
About Form I 485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status)
USCIS Form I-485, otherwise referred to as Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is a necessary form for some immigrants who want to live and work legally in the U.S.
If you are already living in the United States and you have an approved immigrant petition, you can likely use this form to adjust your current immigration status to permanent resident or Green Cardholder.
If you do not have an approved immigrant petition, you may also use this form depending on the eligibility requirements for your Green Card category.
Completing and filing the form can feel like a herculean task for most applicants. This is because any error, mistake, or fraud might lead to a denial of your visa or Green Card application.
One way to ease the process is to work with an immigration lawyer like Michael G. Murray, P.A., to help make sure you have the forms completed accurately and on time.
How to Comply With I-485 Form Instructions
Because it is essential to follow the filing instructions strictly, many applicants seek the help of experts who understand the procedure of applying for adjustment of status.
In many cases, applicants consult attorneys experienced in citizenship and immigration services. This is because such an expert understands the immigration laws and procedures about an adjustment of status in the U.S.
An immigration attorney in the U.S. can help you:
- prepare the application
- file the application
- represent you during the Green Card interview
There is smart software available online as well as guides to completing the application process via immigration services (USCIS). Still, the safest bet is to rely on professional guidance from an attorney who has your best interests in mind.
More Information on USCIS Form I 485
Here are some quick facts and explanations of terms used in the I 485 process:
Eligibility—Some federal laws and statutes in the U.S., like the Immigration and Nationality Act, specify those eligible to apply for permanent residency by filing Form I 485. To know if you are qualified to apply under Form I-485, consult an experienced immigration attorney for legal advice.
Personal Application—Every applicant seeking to become a permanent resident in the U.S must file a personal form I-485. This is the case whether or not you are a principal applicant.
When to file Form I-485—Beneficiaries of immigrant visa petitions can file for an adjustment of status or Green Card only after the USCIS has approved their petition and assigned a visa number. However, USCIS may allow certain applicants to file a Form I-485 before approval for the immigrant’s petition. If you want to learn more about visa availability and priority date, visit the USCIS online platform or speak with your attorney.
Military Service—Sometimes, male applicants between the ages of 18 and 26 are required by law to register with the Military Selective Service System. If successful in their application, their Social Security Number and other details may be sent to the Selective Service.
Immediate Relatives—Unlike other applicants, an immediate relative of a U.S citizen can apply for Form I-485 while the applicant’s Form I-130 is pending.
Alien Registration Number—Remember to type or print your name and Alien Registration Number, if applicable, at the top of each sheet of your application.
Instructions for Supplement A to Form I-485
Supplement A to Form I-485 was designed for those ineligible for adjustment of status under Section 245 of the INA. However, people in this category can use Supplement A and apply for adjustment of status under Section 254(i) of the INA.
Those applying for Green Card under this category must also file their Supplement A alongside Form I-485. This will make them eligible under the various visa categories. The USCIS will consider Supplement A and Form I-485 to determine if they qualify under Section 245(i).
The following people may be qualified to file Supplement A.
- Applicants who are the principal beneficiaries of immigrant petitions or applications for permanent labor certification, properly filed on or before January 14, 1998.
- The principal beneficiaries of immigrant petitions or applications for permanent labor certification were properly filed on or after January 15, 1998, but on or before April 30, 2001, and were physically present in the United States on December 21, 2000.
- Those who were the derivative beneficiaries of immigrant petitions or applications for permanent labor certification properly filed on or before January 14, 1998, which was approvable when filed.
- Those who were the derivative beneficiaries of immigrant petitions or applications for permanent labor certification properly filed on or after January 15, 1998, but on or before April 30, 2001, which was approvable when filed and were physically present in the United States on December 21, 2000.
- Applicants who are currently the spouses or unmarried children under 21 years eligible to accompany or join a principal or derivative beneficiary described in the preceding cases.
I-485 Form Instructions (Step by Step)
Adhering to Form I 485 can be overwhelming. Common errors that Green Card applicants make in the process include leaving some spaces blank or putting in the wrong information. These errors can work against the applicant.
The USCIS I-485 Form is divided into several parts. Below are step-by-step form I 485 to help you understand how to fill out this important form.
Part 1—Information About You
This part of the form requires you to provide the following personal information:
- your name
- date of birth
- country of birth
- country of citizenship
- place of the last arrival in the U.S
- recent immigration history
You should know and write the point of your last arrival in the U.S.
The Department of Homeland Security assigns a Form I-94 to:
- All aliens admitted to the U.S
- Those who want to adjust their immigration status while in the U.S
- Those who want to extend their stay
Every Form I-94 contains an 11-digit Arrival-Departure Number which can be assessed on their website. You have to provide your Expiration Date of Authorized Stay or the exact date your status will expire. However, don’t look at your visa to find that date because it’s almost always different. You can learn the date your status expires on your Form I-94, issued by Customs and Border Protection. In some cases, those who have exceeded their exact Expiration Date of Authorized Stay can apply to adjust their status and renew their visa.
You must ensure to use your legal name the way it appears on your international passport. If your legal name has changed from the one on your passport, you must provide evidence of such change.
For students and exchange program visitors, you must use your exchange program’s name on file. Otherwise, you must provide evidence of why this should be changed.
You should provide a mailing address to receive correspondence from the USCIS. A vulnerable applicant or special immigrant can use a proxy mailing address to receive correspondence.
Part 2—Application Type or Filing Category
In this section, you are expected to indicate which immigrant category are you applying – to become a lawful permanent resident or to adjust status?
Note that there are two main kinds of applicants:
- the principal applicant
- the derivative applicant
Principal applicants apply for themselves, while derivative applicants apply through a principal applicant.
A Green Card applicant who wants to adjust status must select one of the eight immigration categories, including:
- Family-based immigration
- Employment-Based immigration
- Special Immigration
- Human Trafficking Victim or Crime Victim
- Special Programs Based on Certain Public Laws
- Additional Options, like Diversity Visa
Part 3—Additional Information About You
This part of the form is where you should indicate whether you have ever applied for a permanent resident status or Green Card in the U.S. You must state if the application was approved, denied, or withdrawn.
This part will also ask you to provide your employment history, address history, and the places where you have lived in the last five years, both in and outside the U.S. Your employment history is not a basis of eligibility but is used for background checks.
Part 4—Information About Your Parents
As a Green Card applicant, you must provide personal information about your parents, including their legal names, place and date of birth, and current residence. The U.S government uses this information to carry out a background check on the applicants.
Part 5—Information About Your Marital History
This section will ask applicants about their marital status. Be ready to answer questions like current marital status, place of marriage, and details of a prior marriage or previous marriages, if applicable.
Certain supporting documents have to be included with a marriage-based I-485 application, such as proof that the spouse had entered the U.S. using a valid immigrant visa and proof that the sponsoring spouse can support the spouse filing a green card application financially.
Remember to attach primary evidence like your marriage certificate to your application. Failure to attach supporting evidence like a marriage certificate may delay your application.
Part 6—Information About Your Children
In this part, applicants are asked to provide details about their offspring in the following manner:
- biological children
- legally adopted children
- stepchildren whether living in the U.S, married or unmarried
Part 7—Biographic Information
In biographic information, immigration applicants are asked about their ethnicity, race, height, weight, eye color, and hair color. Applicants who want to adjust status are free to select any race they most identify with as there is no wrong answer.
Part 8—General Eligibility and Inadmissibility Grounds
Under this section, applicants are asked to declare whether they are members of certain religious organizations, associations, funds, foundations, parties, clubs, or similar groups in the U.S or any other locations, including any military service. Applicants must list the past and present organizations to which they belong.
This section will also ask applicants if they’ve ever been denied entry into the U.S or been involved in any criminal acts and violations.
It would help if you answered every question honestly and accurately. If you believe a truthful answer could create a problem on the application or you are unsure of your answer, speak to a U.S immigration attorney before filing your Form I-485.
Part 9—Accommodations for Individuals With Disabilities And/or Impairments
This section requires applicants with a disability to indicate if they need any accommodations. The USCIS makes provisions for those with disabilities and other forms of impairment to take part fully in the program. Those with disabilities must be specific in the exact accommodation and public benefits they want.
Part 10—Applicant’s Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, Certification, and Signature
The USCIS wants applicants to indicate if they prepared Form I-485 independently or assisted by a family member or third party.
Part 11—Interpreter’s Contact Information, Certification, and Signature
Those who do not understand English and need an interpreter to fill the Form must provide the interpreter’s contact information and certification. The interpreter must also sign the form.
Part 12—Contact Information, Certification, and Signature of Person Preparing this Application, If Other Than the Applicant
A third party can prepare the USCIS Form I-485 on behalf of an applicant. However, those preparing the document for an applicant, whether an ordinary person, attorney or accredited representative, must properly indicate it as such. So if you filled the form yourself, you can indicate that it is not applicable.
Part 13—Signature at Interview
The applicants should not fill or sign this part until during their interview and in the presence of the USCIS officer.
Do You Need a Lawyer to File I-485?
While the exact rules and procedures may vary based on your personal circumstances, most applicants file Form I-485 with the help of an attorney.
This is because such a professional can assist with interpreting decisions or laws that affect immigration requirements, filing forms correctly and according to exact instructions.
Also, if you hire an attorney to help you understand legal procedures and documentation properly, you can be assured of avoiding costly mistakes and immigration violations.
Can I File 485 by Myself?
Filing Form I 485 by yourself means doing it on your own without the help of a professional.
That said, you should know that while an individual can file for permanent residency in certain situations, filing USCIS form I-485 alone is not advisable for most applicants.
For example, if someone has immigration violations or criminal history, getting a Green Card can be extremely difficult. In addition, you must follow Form I-485 Instructions strictly because the application can be denied if required initial evidence isn’t submitted.
Bear in mind that processing times for Form I-485 vary depending on the category of adjustment. It can take a few weeks to a few years for the USCIS to approve the form. However, if an individual has filed Form I-140 for an employment-based adjustment of status, it has to be approved first.
Unless you are familiar with immigration policies and procedures, hiring an experienced immigration attorney is the safest way to increase your chances of success.
Contact an Immigration Law Firm
If you are applying for a permanent residence in the U.S, don’t leave it to chance. Contact a citizenship and naturalization attorney today to review your case for additional information on preparing and filing your 485 application or further instructions.