What Happens After 485 Filing: Understanding the Green Card Process

The journey toward U.S. lawful permanent residency can be intricate and laden with various procedural steps. After an individual files Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, a sequence of events initiates, beginning with the receipt of a notice from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) acknowledging the application. This notice typically arrives within two to four weeks after the application has been filed. The acknowledgment is a crucial first indication that the USCIS has received the application and is processing it.

Following the notice of receipt, applicants can expect to be scheduled for a biometrics appointment, generally occurring between five and six weeks after filing. Biometrics collection is essential for the completion of background checks. After the biometrics appointment, applicants might receive requests for additional evidence, a process that can extend the timeline by one to six months.

Course of events may yield the issuance of an Employment Authorization Document and Advance Parole approximately 90 days post-filing, allowing the applicant to work and travel while the application is being adjudicated. It’s important to note that changes such as moving to a new address after filing must be promptly communicated to USCIS to ensure all correspondence, including interview appointment notices, is received without delay. Maintaining accurate and up-to-date information with USCIS is an important aspect of the process.

Understanding the Form I-485 Application

The Form I-485, known as the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is a critical document for foreign nationals who seek to establish permanent residency in the United States without returning to their home country.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for adjustment of status through Form I-485, an applicant must:

  • Be physically present in the United States.
  • Have an immigrant visa immediately available.
  • Have a valid petition (family or employment-based).
  • Not have disqualifying factors, such as certain criminal records or health-related grounds.

Adjustment of Status Process

The adjustment of status process involves several steps:

  1. File Form I-485 with the required documentation and fees.
  2. Attend a biometrics appointment, typically scheduled 3-5 weeks after filing.
  3. Interview may be required, depending on individual circumstances.
  4. Receive a decision, where the USCIS may grant permanent resident status.

Preparing for Filing

When preparing to file Form I-485 for adjustment of status, meticulous attention to detail is required. One must gather all necessary documents and understand the associated costs to ensure a successful submission.

Required Documentation

Applicants must collate a comprehensive set of documents to support their Form I-485 application. This includes evidence of eligibility for the immigrant category being applied for, such as:

  • Proof of Immigrant Petition: A copy of the approval notice or a receipt notice for the immigrant petition (Form I-130, I-140, I-360, etc.)
  • Government-issued Identification: Valid passport biographic page and birth certificate with a certified translation if not in English.
  • Travel Documentation: Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94) if applicable.
  • Evidence of Status: If the applicant is in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa, evidence of maintenance of that status is required.
  • Two Passport-style Photographs: Recently taken according to the requirements set by USCIS.

Filing Fees and Expenses

Form I-485 requires payment of filing fees, which vary based on the age of the applicant and whether biometric services are needed. As of the knowledge cutoff in 2023, here is a breakdown of the fees:

Applicant Age Filing Fee Biometric Services
Under 14 and filing with the I-485 application of at least one parent $750 None
Under 14 and not filing with the I-485 application of at least one parent $1,140 None
Age 14–78 $1,140 $85
Age 79 or older $1,140 None
Filing Form I-485 based on having been admitted to the United States as a refugee None None

Note: These fees are subject to change, so applicants should verify current amounts with USCIS prior to submission.

Expenses related to obtaining necessary documents, translations, and legal services should also be factored into the overall cost of filing. It is crucial to budget for these potential expenses to avoid any delays or complications in the filing process.

After Submission

After an individual submits Form I-485 for adjustment of status, they will encounter a series of steps as the application is processed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Receipt Notice and Case Number

Upon receiving the I-485 submission, USCIS sends a Form I-797 Receipt Notice to the applicant. This notice confirms the start of case processing and provides a unique receipt number. The receipt number is critical for tracking the application’s progress and should be kept for records.

Biometrics Appointment

Within 3-5 weeks after the form submission, the USCIS schedules a biometrics appointment. The applicant is required to provide fingerprints, a photograph, and a signature at a local Application Support Center (ASC). The purpose is to facilitate a thorough background check.

Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

While the adjustment of status application is pending, applicants may apply for an Employment Authorization Document, also known as EAD or work permit. Once approved, the EAD grants the applicant the legal right to work in the united States.

Advance Parole Travel Document

Applicants may also apply for an Advance Parole Travel Document. This document allows the individual to travel abroad and return to the United States without jeopardizing the pending status of their I-485 application. It is essential to obtain this document before leaving the country to avoid potential complications with re-entry.

Processing Times and Status Updates

After an individual files Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, the processing time can vary significantly depending on several factors such as the form category and the USCIS office handling the case. Initially, applicants should receive an Application Receipt Notice within 2 to 3 weeks. This notice is confirmation that USCIS has received the application. It is sent via Form I-797C and contains critical information for tracking the case.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides a feature to check processing times based on form type and the filing office. For accurate updates, applicants should refer to their receipt notice to identify their specific office and form category.

Interim steps can include:

  • Biometrics Appointment: The required attendance for the applicant to provide fingerprints, a photo, and possibly a signature.
  • Employment Authorization: If applicable, this allows the applicant to work while their permanent residency is being processed.
  • Adjustment of Status Interview: Most applicants must attend an interview as part of the process.

Applicants can also expect to receive requests for further information if needed and should be prepared to respond promptly to avoid delays. USCIS may also need to reschedule interviews, which is included in the total processing time.

Lastly, applicants should be aware that processing times frequently change due to backlogs or changes in immigration law and procedures. Regular updates can be found on the official USCIS website or by contacting USCIS directly.

Key Step Relevant Action Timeframe
Receipt of Application Approximately 2 – 3 weeks after filing
Biometrics Appointment Scheduled after receipt is acknowledged
Employment Authorization Varies; contingent on individual case factors
Adjustment of Status Interview Typically several months after application

Keeping abreast of current processing times and promptly responding to USCIS can help ensure a smoother adjustment of status process.

Interview and Adjudication

After filing Form I-485, applicants enter a crucial phase which includes a possible interview and the adjudication process where their eligibility for adjustment of status is determined.

Interview Preparation

Applicants should receive an interview appointment notice, which typically occurs approximately 4-10 months after filing. Preparation should include:

  • Familiarizing themselves with the details of their application
  • Gathering all necessary documentation, such as identification and any additional requested materials

It is also essential to understand that some interviews may be waived by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on a case-by-case basis.

Possible Outcomes

Following the interview or if the interview is waived, the adjudication process commences. This can result in several outcomes:

  • Approval: The applicant is granted lawful permanent resident status.
  • Request for Evidence (RFE): Additional documentation may be requested to make a final decision.
  • Denial: Ineligibility based on failure to meet the requirements or if disqualifying factors are discovered.

Post-Decisions Action

Once the Form I-485 has been filed, applicants may encounter several types of post-decision actions including approval, requests for additional evidence, or even denial and the possibility of appeal, each having specific next steps and implications.

Approval

If the Form I-485 application is approved, applicants receive their Permanent Resident Card (Green Card). This approval grants them legal permanent residency in the United States. Prior to receiving the Green Card, they may receive a temporary proof of status, such as a special stamp in their passport or a temporary status document, which they can use for employment verification and travel.

Request for Evidence

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) if additional information is needed to make a decision on the application. Applicants must respond to the RFE within the timeframe specified, usually around 83-107 days, by submitting the necessary documentation. Failure to respond or providing insufficient evidence can lead to the denial of the application.

Denial and Appeals

In the case of a denial, USCIS will provide a written notice explaining the reasons. Applicants have the option to file an appeal or a motion to reopen or reconsider the case with the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) or Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The appeal must be filed within 30 days of the decision. Alternatively, they may also seek judicial review of the decision in Federal court.