I-485 Permanent Residency

I-485: Application For Permanent Residency

Given the current climate of the world, dealing with your immigration status is probably one of the priorities of people who are looking to make the United States their permanent home, in heart, in mind, and legally.

With that, you probably know that you need Form I-485. Form I-485 is the Application to Register for Permanent Residence or Adjust Residence Status. 

It is used to register for a new status of residence in the United States or adjust to a more permanent resident status or more popularly known as the green card. When you use Form I-485, you are opening yourself up to adjust your status. It is the most important form especially if the individual wants to obtain a permanent legal residency without having to return to his or her home country. 

Top Questions For I-485 Permanent Residency:

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Form I-485 is also known as the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. It is used to register for a new status of residence in the United States or adjust to a more permanent resident status or more popularly known as the Green Card. Applying and using Form I-475 is important especially if the individual wants to obtain a permanent legal residency without having to return to his or her home country. 

With the Form I-485 that is a required step on the path towards legal permanent residency, some people think that it is the only step necessary but the truth is that there are a lot of forms required and evidence that must be presented by the applicant depending on his unique situation.

When filling up Form I-485, you need to follow specific steps:

  • You must determine if you are eligible to apply for a Green Card. The United States immigration laws provide a variety of reasons and a variety of ways for people to apply for a Green Card. The first step in filling out Form I-485 is actually to determine if you are eligible for the adjustment of status that you want to get. You should try to determine if you fit into a specific immigrant category. Make sure that you hire a lawyer who can help you on this part. Victoria Law Firm can help you with this aspect.
  • Get the right form. Make sure that you get the right form and fill it out properly. Other than Form I-485, you may also need to get other forms.
 

Once you get the information you need, you need to fill out the form properly. The following are the right steps to follow when filling out Form I-485:

Prepare Black Ink Pen and A Good Table. When responding to the form, the first thing that you should give it is time. Take your time to prepare black, have a sturdy table in place, and make sure that you make every effort to answer the form correctly.

Write Legibly. Make sure that you are going to use your writing skills properly. When filling up Form I-485, you should make sure that you are ready to give it time and answer with very good thought.

Prepare A Separate Sheet for Paper. If you need an extra sheet of paper, make sure that you have it ready. Type or print your name and your Alien Registration Number at the top of each of the extra sheets. When answering, make sure that you indicate the Page Number, Part Number, and Item Number to which your answer refers; and sign and date each sheet.

Answer as Truthful and as Accurate as Possible.  Make sure that you answer all of the questions fully and accurately. A couple of questions that you should look out for are the following:

  • If a question does not apply to you type or print “N/A,” unless otherwise directed. For example, if you have never been married and the question asks, “Provide the name of your current spouse”.
  • If your answer to a question which requires a numeric response is zero or none, type or print “None,” unless otherwise directed. For example, if the question asks “how many children do you have” or “How many times have you departed the United States”, you give the answer in numeric form.
 
Make Sure That You Write the Correct USIS Online Account Number. If you have previously filed an application, petition, or request using the USCIS online filing system (previously called USCIS Electronic Immigration System (USCIS ELIS)), provide the USCIS Online Account Number you were issued by the system. You can find your USCIS Online Account Number by logging in to your account and going to the profile page. If you previously filed certain applications, petitions, or requests on a paper form via a USCIS Lockbox facility, you may have received a USCIS Online Account Access Notice issuing you a USCIS Online Account Number. If you received such a notice, your USCIS Online Account Number can be found at the top of the notice. If you were issued a USCIS Online Account Number, enter it in the space provided. The USCIS Online Account Number is not the same as an A-Number.
 

Make Sure That You Put the Right Safe Address. You should keep in mind that you need to make sure that you put the safe address in case you are filing for an adjustment of a status application based on VAWA or as a special immigrant juvenile. This also applies for those who are victims of human trafficking and victims of crimes. You should make sure that you provide a safe mailing address.  

In Part 1, Item Numbers 14.a. – 14.f. This address may be a post office box, the address of a friend, your attorney, a community-based organization that is helping you, or any other address where you can safely and timely receive mail. It is important to make sure that the receiving address is clean and safe for you. If you do not provide an alternate, safe address in Part 1., Item Numbers 14.a. – 14.f., USCIS may use the address of the preparer you listed on your Form I-485. If you do not use a preparer and do not provide a safe address, then USCIS will use the U.S. Mailing Address you provide in Part 1., Item Numbers 13.a. – 13.f.

Hence, you should be intentional on the address that you put on Form I-485 especially in case you need to protect yourself and your safety for any reason.

Keep in Mind That You Should Keep Your Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record. Upon arrival to the United States, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or USCIS issued Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, which provided you with your Form I-94 number and date that your authorized period of stay expires. The Form I-94 number also is known as the Departure Number on some versions of Form I-94. 

Provide All of Your Employment History. You should provide all of your employment history for the last five years. Whether your employment is inside or outside of the United States, you should provide information for the whole five years and do not miss any kind of employment. Whether you were doing part time employment, self-employment, or unemployment, you should put all of the available information. Make sure that you provide information for the complete time period. If you do not know your start or end days on specific employment, you must provide your best estimate on the dates. Keep in mind that they might be some questions about periods of unemployment. 

In case you do not remember your employment, you should begin your current and most recent employment or unemployment. You must also provide the locations and dates where you worked. If you worked for yourself, type or print “self-employed.” If you were unemployed, type or print “unemployed.” 

Write The Right Biographical Information. You must provide the biographical information requested in Part 7., Item Numbers 1. – 6. Providing this information as part of your application may reduce the time you spend at your USCIS ASC appointment as described in the Biometric Services Appointment. Make sure that you select and provide the right information:

Ethnicity and Race. Make sure that you provide the right information on your ethnicity. The following are the categories on Form I-485:

  • Hispanic or Latino. A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
  • White. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.
  • Asian. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • Black or African American. A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
  • American Indian or Alaska Native. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment.
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
 
Height. Height is also information that you should be very clear on. Make sure that you select the values that best match your height in feet and inches. For example, if you are four feet and eleven inches, select “4” for feet and “11” for inches. Do not enter your height in meters or centimeters.
 

Weight. Your weight should be put in pounds. If you do not know your weight, or need to enter a weight under 30 pounds or over 699 pounds, enter “000.” Do not enter your weight in kilograms. Find out what your weight is, you should probably know what it is.

Eye Color. Select the box that best describes the color of your eyes.

Hair Color. Select the box that best describes the color of your hair.

General Eligibility and Inadmissibility Grounds. Select the answer you think is correct. If you answer “Yes” to any questions (or if you answer “No,” but are unsure of your answer), provide an explanation of the events and circumstances in the space provided in Part 14. Additional Information. You are the only person who can answer this but you should also get the help of an expert.

Applicant’s Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, Certification, and Signature. Select the appropriate box to indicate whether you read this application yourself or whether you had an interpreter assist you. If someone assisted you in completing the application, select the box indicating that you used a preparer. Further, you must sign and date your application and provide your daytime telephone number, mobile telephone number (if any), and email address (if any). Every application MUST contain the signature of the applicant (or parent or legal guardian, if applicable). A stamped or typewritten name in place of a signature is not acceptable.

Interpreter’s Contact Information, Certification, and Signature. If you used anyone as an interpreter to read the Instructions and questions on this application to you in a language in which you are fluent, the interpreter must fill out this section, provide his or her name, the name and address of his or her business or organization (if any), his or her daytime telephone number, his or her mobile telephone number (if any), and his or her email address (if any). The interpreter must sign and date the application.

Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature of the Person Preparing this Application, if Other Than the Applicant. This section must contain the signature of the person who completed your application, if other than you, the applicant. If the same individual acted as your interpreter and your preparer, that person should complete both Part 11. and Part 12. If the person who completed this application is associated with a business or organization, that person should complete the business or organization name and address information. Anyone who helped you complete this application MUST sign and date the application. A stamped or typewritten name in place of a signature is not acceptable. If the person who helped you prepare your application is an attorney or accredited representative, he or she may be obliged to also submit a completed Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative, along with your application.

After submitting your Form, I-485, you are going to go through the whole process of application. You should expect to go through the following steps once the USCIS has received your application:

1. Confirmation of Receipt. USCIS will inform you that they have received your application. They should send you with a confirmation of receipt within 30 days from the time of application. If you have attached forms, you will also receive other forms of confirmation coming from the USCIS. Other forms of communication that the USCIS often do is also through text messaging and confirmation email. These might be the processes that the USCIS will use when communicating with applicants throughout the pandemic. Both the e-receipt and the physical receipt will have a corresponding receipt number that you can use to track your case and see how far along you are in the application process.

2. Completion of Documents and Form. If you submitted the form but it is incomplete or needs some more information, USCIS will also contact you. They will give you time to fix the problem and re-submit the application. If you need more evidence, the USCIS will request for additional evidence and they will also ask you for the originals of the copies that you provided. The original documents will be returned to you but make sure that you keep copies of your application all throughout the process.

3. Biometrics. Once you have set an appointment notice, you will undergo the process of biometrics. The Biometrics services appointment notice will happen approximately three to five weeks from complete filing. Complete filing includes the submission of complete information as well as payment of the right fees. You will receive a notice in the mail telling you about the biometrics services appointment that has been set for you at the local Application Support Center (ASC) under the USCIS. The notice you will receive will be complete with the date, time, and location of your appointment as well as all other information necessary for you to make it on the day of your appointment. Review your biometrics appointment and make sure that you have all of the information necessary to help you. When you go to your appointment, the following are the documents that you should take with you:

  • Your ASC appointment notice;
  • Valid photo ID (such as a passport, driver’s license, or state-issued photo ID card); and
  • A translator if you cannot understand spoken English.

     

4. Interview Time. Next is the interview. Within 4 to 10 months of your filling, the USCIS office will ask you questions about your Form I-485. You will receive a notice that will tell you when and where the interview will take place. Bring with you the original copies of the following documents: 

  • Passports;
  • Official Travel Documents;
  • Form I-94;
  • Copy of your Form I-485; and
  • All other originals of the documents that you submitted with your Form I-485, even if the documents are now expired.                             

Keep in mind that all of the documents you submitted must be presented on the day of the interview. If you need to do something else on the day of the interview or if you get sick, make sure that you follow the instructions you should follow to reschedule.

5. Receive Your Request for Permanent Residence. You should keep in mind that your request for permanent residency in the United States may get final approval or decision approximately between eight to fourteen months after the filing.

6. Appeal. If you feel aggrieved by the decision or if you do not agree with it, you can try to file an appeal. Even if it says that you cannot appeal the decision, you may still be able to file a motion to reconsider. To file an appeal or a motion you will use Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.

After submitting the form, you will have to face a whole lot of the process. When you apply for an adjustment status, you should expect a lot of other requirements and a lot of questions. Make sure that you are ready for anything that the USCIS officers will ask of you. You are always going to be asked personal questions because they need to assess if you will be an asset to the United States or not. 

Form I-485 is one of the most important forms that you could use when applying for a Green Card.  The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and certain other Federal laws provide many different ways to adjust status to that of a lawful permanent resident. This means that individuals could have their status adjusted to make sure that they can stay in the United States. 

There are two kinds of persons who may file the application: the principal applicant and the derivative applicant. An individual is considered as a principal applicant when he or she is the one directly qualified for the immigrant category while he/she is a derivative applicant when he/she is a family member of the principal applicant. 

For the principal applicant, it is expected that the applicant is usually the individual named as the beneficiary of the petition. If you are the principal applicant, you must do the following:

  • Properly designate which immigrant category he or she is applying under by selecting the appropriate box listed on Form I-485, Part 2. Application Type or Filing Category, Item Numbers 2.a. – 8.e. 
  • Each category has specific requirements for adjustment of status. Hence, it is important to make sure that you, as the principal applicant, will comply with all of the requirements set.

For a derivative applicant, who files based on a principal applicant, he/she must do the following:

  • Properly designate which immigrant category you are applying under by selecting the appropriate box listed on Form I-485, Part 2. Application Type or Filing Category, Item Numbers 2.a. – 8.e. 
  • Make sure that you are in the right immigrant category. There are some immigrant categories that do not allow for derivative applicants, while a few categories allow additional family members to apply as derivative applicants.

A Quick Run Around The following is a quick run around on the individuals who may file for a petition and use form I-485:

  • If your immigrant petition is approved and your visa number is approved, you may file the Form.
  • If you are the spouse or child under 21 years of age of an individual who is also applying for a change of status, you may file Form I-485 with the other applicant or any time after it is approved if you are already in the United States. 
  • If you are in the United States on a K-1 visa, you may already file after marriage with your fiancé.
  • If you are in the United States on an asylum visa, you may already file a Form I-485 after you have been physically present in the United States for 1 year. However, you may only submit an application with Form I-485 if you still qualify as an asylee or are the spouse or child of a refugee.

There are some individuals who are not eligible to apply for Form I-485. Generally, an individual is ineligible for adjustment of status if one or more adjustment bars in INA sections 245(a), (c), (d), and/or (e) apply to you. However, adjustment bars do not apply to every type of immigrant category and your category might exempt you from certain adjustment bars depending on your category. 

To help you look at the proper information available, you cannot file Form I-485 if you fall under any of the following circumstances:

  • Spouses who are not physically present in the United States cannot file the I-485. Second, even when the spouse is physically present in the United States, there are some eligibility exclusions that prevent the filing of an I-485 application.
  • You entered the United States as a crewman;
  • You entered the United States for transit purposes (i.e. on your way to another country);
  • You were admitted to the United States as a witness or informant; or
  • You are “deportable” because you were involved in terrorist activity or involved with a terrorist group.

You may also not be eligible to file Form I-485 under the following circumstances: 

  • Health-related grounds. This is the ground for inadmissibility where you have a disqualifying communicable disease or mental health condition. There are a lot of people who are asking questions about this especially given the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Criminal grounds. If you were convicted of certain specific crimes, you should keep in mind that you may be inadmissible for a change or adjustment of status.
  • Security grounds. If you are a threat to the national security of the United States, you cannot file a Form I-485.
  • Violations of immigration law or procedure. If you have previously broken United States immigration laws, you cannot file a Form I-485.
  • Public charge grounds. If you are an individual who is likely to become dependent on public benefits, you are considered as a public charge. With that, you are not eligible to file a Form I-485.

There are also other grounds that will prevent you from getting Form I-485, such as the following grounds:

  • When you entered the United States to practice polygamy;
  • If you are known as an international child abductor;
  • When you voted unlawfully; and 
  • All other grounds that make you undesirable as a citizen. 

When you are applying for a change of status, you should use Form I-485, once you are ready with your application, you should apply for a change of status. The specific evidence that is required to get submitted with your application varies depending on the immigrant category. The applicant must read category specific information so he can submit all kinds of evidence that is requested with the application.

Keep in mind that if you fail to submit the required evidence, the USCIS may reject or deny your application for failure to submit the requested evidence or supporting documents. Keep in mind that failure to submit all required evidence and documentation when filing Form, I-485 may also delay processing of your application and any related applications based on Form I-485, such as Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, or Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. 

There are two specific categories of evidence that you must provide with Form I-485: there is primary evidence and there is secondary evidence. Your primary evidence is the basis of your eligibility. This is your birth certificate or your marriage certificate or the like. There is also the secondary evidence. Secondary evidence are records coming from the church or school records. 

If you are unable to submit any primary evidence, you may submit secondary evidence. If you are unable to submit any secondary evidence, you may submit two or more affidavits coming from individuals who are not parties to the immigration benefit and who have direct personal knowledge of the event and circumstances. You also need to explain why you cannot present any of the primary or the secondary evidence.

With that, the following are the general primary evidence that may be asked of you when you submit Form I-485:

Photographs

The photographs that you must submit must be two recent passport style photographs of yourself. They must be in an off-white background and must get printed on thin paper with a glossy finish. Make sure that you do not have your photos retouched. The following are the specific requirements that you should remember and follow when it comes to the photographs:

  • The photos must have a white to off-white background, be printed on thin paper with a glossy finish;
  • The photos must be unmounted;
  • The photos must be unretouched;
  • The two recent identical color passport-style photos must be 2 by 2 inches;
  • The photos must be in color with full face, frontal view, on a white to off-white background;
  • Head height should measure 1 to 1 3/8 inches from top of hair to bottom of chin, and eye height should measure between 1 1/8 to 1 3/8 inches from bottom of photo;
  • Your head must be bare unless you are wearing headwear as required by a religious denomination of which you are a member; and
  • Using a pencil or felt pen, lightly print your name and A-Number (if any) on the back of the photo.

Government-Issued Identity Document with Photograph 

You also need to submit a photocopy of a government-issued identity document that has their photograph. Typically, this will be your passport or similar document, even if the passport is now expired. It can also be any other government-issued identity document such as a driver’s license or military identification document. 

Birth Certificate

You must also submit a photocopy of their birth certificate issued by the appropriate civil authority from the country of birth. If your birth certificate is not available or does not exist, you must submit other acceptable evidence relating to the facts of your birth, such as any of the following secondary evidence:

  • church records;
  • school records;
  • hospital records;
  • medical records;
  • personal affidavits; or
  • Any other similar evidence.

Inspection and Admission or Inspection and Parole 

Another requirement that individuals should follow when applying with Form I-485 applicants must submit photocopies of documentation showing they were inspected by an immigration officer. They must also show that they were either admitted or paroled into the United States. You must establish any claim that you were admitted or paroled into the United States. This evidence must relate to your most recent arrival into the United States.

In this case, the primary evidence that you must present are the following:

  • Passport page with admission or parole stamp (issued by a U.S. immigration officer);
  • Passport page with nonimmigrant visa; and 
  • Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record (See Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record in the General Instructions section of these Instructions). 

If you cannot produce this primary evidence, and DHS has no record of the admission or parole, USCIS will presume that you came into the United States without admission or parole. You may also provide secondary evidence such as records maintained in the ordinary course of business by any individual or organization other than DHS.

The following types of applicants do NOT need to submit documentation of inspection and admission or parole: 

  • registry applicants;
  • Asylee;
  • VAWA self-petitioners;
  • special immigrant juveniles;
  • T nonimmigrants applying under INA section 245(l);
  • U nonimmigrants applying under INA section 245(m); and
  • individuals born under diplomatic status in the United States.

 

Documentation of Your Immigrant Category 

Once you apply and submit Form I-485, you must also submit evidence showing that you are eligible for adjustment of status in a particular immigrant category. 

The following are the associated costs when you apply to change your status to permanent residency in the United States (as of November 2020):

  • For those who are under 14 and filing with the I-485 application of at least one parent, you should expect to pay a total of $750.
  • For those who are under 14 and not filing with the I-485 application of at least one parent, you should expect to pay a total of $1,140.
  • For those who are between the ages of 14 to 78, you should expect to pay around $1,225.
  • For those who are between the age 79 or older, you should expect to pay around $1,140.
  • For those who are being admitted based on having been admitted to the United States as a refugee, you should expect to pay around $0.

According to USCIS, an application for permanent residence using Form I-485 will take anywhere from 7 months to 33 months to process. This period will depend on different factors depending on the office location, basis for the filing, and other factors. The following are the processing times that you should expect at the time of application:

  • Confirmation of Receipt of Application – this happens approximately between two to three weeks after the filing;
  • Appointment Notice for Biometrics – this happens approximately between 3 to 5 weeks after filing;
  • Biometrics Appointment – this happens approximately between 5 to 8 weeks after filing;
  • Receiving of Your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) – this happens approximately between 12 to 16 weeks after the filing; 
  • Receive Your Notice of Interview – this happens between 4 to 10 months after filing;
  • Your Adjustment of Status Interview – this happens approximately between 6 to 12 months after filing; and
  • Receive Your Permanent Residence Card – this happens approximately between 7 months to 33 months to process.

The following are the steps that you should take in case your request is in the verge of a denial or has been denied:

Try to Avoid Getting a Denial.

Victoria Law Firm can help you prevent getting a denial. The USCIS will not issue a flat out denial if you do your best to comply with their requirements. For example, if you have a petitioner that does not make enough money to sponsor you, you will be given time to come up with the name of an additional sponsor. If you have a medical condition, you will also be given time to get another examination or get well.

For marriage based immigration categories, if you have not proven to the USCIS satisfaction that your marriage to a United States citizen is a real thing, you will be asked to provide further documents showing that you and your spouse live together and share your financial assets.

If you get asked about things like this during your interview, you need to make sure that you have a lawyer with you so you can regroup and easily handle everything that the USCIS wants you to handle. Victoria Law Firm can help you on this end.

If your request is denied and you have already received information and communication from the USCIS, you should keep in mind that you can try to appeal the decision. While there is no way or information or process available to appeal a decision, you can try to go through the following process:

Request for USCIS Review. 

You may ask USCIS’s Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) to review the decision through the USCIS Form I-290B. If you do not already have a lawyer, you should keep in mind that you already need a lawyer or assistance from a law firm at this point. Victoria Law Firm can help you on this part. You need to file a request to review to the USCIS with the right assistance. USCIS will inform you of its decision in writing.

Once you receive a denial, the important thing to do is to act as quickly as possible. You have 30 calendar days from the date that you received the denial to submit the request for a review on the denial. You must act quickly and make sure that you get the right help.

Once you received your approval, you can now live and work freely in the United States. However, your freedom comes with some limitations depending on the immigration category that you applied for.