What Is the Difference Between Form I-130 and I-485: Understanding U.S. Immigration Forms

Navigating the United States immigration process involves understanding various forms and procedures, each with a distinct purpose. Two key forms in the family-based green card application process are Form I-130 and Form I-485. Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is filed by a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) to establish a valid family relationship with the person seeking a green card. Its primary role is to confirm the legitimacy of the familial relationship, such as that of a spouse, child, or sibling.

On the other hand, Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, commonly known as Adjustment of Status (AOS), is an individual application that allows an eligible person currently in the U.S. to apply for lawful permanent resident status, also referred to as a green card. This form requires proof of the applicant’s eligibility for permanent residency, which includes an examination of admissibility criteria such as health, security, and financial stability.

While Form I-130 is the initial petition used to demonstrate a qualifying relationship, Form I-485 follows as a subsequent step once the I-130 is approved, allowing the beneficiary to officially request a change in their immigration status while they are in the U.S. Both forms are essential components in the overall process for obtaining a green card, and understanding their differences is fundamental for any applicant or petitioner.

Overview of Form I-130

Form I-130, officially known as the Petition for Alien Relative, is a critical step in the process for obtaining a green card for family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.

Purpose of Form I-130

The primary purpose of Form I-130 is to establish a valid family relationship between the petitioner, who can be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (LPR), and the beneficiary, who is the foreign relative seeking a green card. This form initiates the immigration process for family-based visas and is a prerequisite for the beneficiary to apply for permanent residency.

Eligibility Criteria for Form I-130

To submit Form I-130, the petitioner must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident
  • Have a qualifying family relationship with the beneficiary (e.g., spouse, child, parent, sibling)
  • Be able to provide evidence of the relationship, such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, or other legal documents

Key Features of Form I-130

Form I-130 includes:

  • Sections for personal information about the petitioner and the beneficiary
  • Questions to establish the relationship’s authenticity
  • Requirements for supporting documentation that prove the family relationship

Filing this form is just the start of the family-based immigration process and does not, by itself, grant any legal status or benefit to the beneficiary.

Overview of Form I-485

Form I-485 is a crucial document for individuals seeking to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident within the United States. It represents the final step for applicants towards the coveted Green Card.

Purpose of Form I-485

Form I-485, also known as the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is specifically designed for individuals already in the U.S. who are eligible to apply for lawful permanent residency without having to return to their home country to complete visa processing. This form facilitates the change from nonimmigrant to immigrant status, granting the applicant authorization to live and work permanently in the United States.

Eligibility Criteria for Form I-485

To be eligible to submit Form I-485, applicants must fall into specific immigrant categories, such as being a family member of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, holding an employment-based visa, being a refugee or asylee, or fitting into various special classes. Additionally, applicants must be physically present in the United States and meet all admissibility requirements set forth by U.S. immigration laws.

Key Features of Form I-485

Form I-485 is distinguished by its ability to concurrently adjust the applicant’s status while they remain in the U.S. Key features of this form include the requirement for extensive personal information, past immigration history, and details of the immigrant category under which the applicant is applying. Applicants are also mandated to undergo a thorough medical examination and submit their fingerprints for a background check. Form I-485 is the last and deciding factor in the authorization of lawful permanent residency.

Comparative Analysis

In assessing both Form I-130 and I-485, it’s pivotal to understand their distinct purposes within U.S. immigration procedures and the nuances that delineate their usage.

Differences in Intended Use

Form I-130, officially known as the Petition for Alien Relative, serves as a primary step for a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) to sponsor a relative for immigration to the United States. The petitioner, who must be a U.S. citizen or a green card holder, uses this form to establish a qualifying relationship with the beneficiary. Form I-485, also referred to as the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is used by the beneficiary to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status (green card) if they are already in the U.S. This form is an individual’s application and is filed after an I-130 is approved, or it can be filed simultaneously if certain conditions are met.

Eligibility Requirements Contrast

Eligibility for the I-130 hinges on the petitioner’s status as a U.S. citizen or LPR and their relationship to the foreign national. Only certain family relationships are eligible, such as spouses, children, and siblings. For the I-485, the foreign national must have an approved I-130 and be present in the U.S. They must also meet other eligibility criteria such as entry into the U.S. legally and not having status violations that could render them inadmissible.

Application Process Distinctions

Form I-130 is initiated by the U.S. sponsor and requires evidence of the qualifying family relationship. The submission includes various documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and proof of the petitioner’s status. The I-485 process begins after the I-130 is either approved or, in cases of immediate relative petitions, may be filed concurrently. The foreign national must submit biographic data, undergo a medical examination, and provide additional documentation relevant to admissibility.

Processing Times and Fees Comparison

The processing times for both forms can vary widely depending on the USCIS workload, the applicant’s specific situation, and other factors.

  • I-130: Fees are subject to change but currently stand at $535.
  • I-485: Fees can vary based on the applicant’s age and other factors, ranging from $750 to $1,140.

Both forms may also involve additional costs for biometrics and other services, and processing times can range from months to years, with the I-130 generally taking less time than the I-485.

Interdependency of I-130 and I-485

The Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, are integral to the process of obtaining lawful permanent residency in the United States for eligible foreign nationals through family sponsorship. They often work in concert within the immigration system.

  • Form I-130: This form is to establish a valid family relationship between a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) and the foreign national seeking residency. It is the initial step in the family-sponsored visa process, filed by the U.S. sponsor.
  • Form I-485: The purpose of this form is for the foreign national beneficiary to apply for permanent resident status (a “green card”) within the U.S., shifting from another status without needing to return to their home country.

These forms are interconnected through the adjustment of status process. The I-130 needs to be approved or, at least, filed before or concurrently with the I-485 to demonstrate that there is an underlying basis for the adjustment application. Specifically:

Form Purpose Filed By Relationship With Other Form
I-130 Establish a valid family relationship U.S. Sponsor Must be approved or pending for I-485 filing
I-485 Apply for adjustment to resident status Beneficiary Relies on I-130 approval or pending status

Eligible applicants have the option to file these forms concurrently if the visa category is current, speeding up the process. This is commonly utilized in categories where there is no wait for a visa to become available, such as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. However, if the I-130 is under scrutiny or delays, filing the I-485 might be stalled until issues are resolved, indicating their interdependent nature within the immigration framework.

Impact on Applicants

The difference between Form I-130 and I-485 has distinct consequences for applicants depending on their immigration pathway. Here are the specifics.

Family-Based Immigration Implications

For family-based applicants, the Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) serves as the initiating document where a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) sponsors a relative for immigration. The primary impact here is the establishment of the familial relationship. Upon I-130 approval, it does not grant the beneficiary the right to stay in the United States. The Form I-485 (Application to Adjust Status) is consequential for family-based applicants as it is the step where a beneficiary, present in the U.S., applies for permanent residency based on an approved I-130. Its impact is significant; approval means the applicant can legally live and work in the United States as a permanent resident.

Employment-Based Immigration Implications

For employment-based applicants, an approved Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) usually precedes the I-485 filing. The I-130 is typically not involved in employment-based cases. The I-485’s impact on these applicants is it allows them to change their status from a temporary worker to a permanent resident without having to leave the U.S., which can be crucial for maintaining continuous employment and residence.

Legal Considerations and Consequences

In navigating the U.S. immigration process, a solid understanding of the forms I-130 and I-485 is critical, as they involve intricate legal considerations and distinct consequences.

Adjustment of Status

The Form I-485, or the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, plays a pivotal role in the legal landscape of immigration. A successful I-485 application results in the applicant being granted permanent resident status, often referred to as obtaining a green card. This status significantly alters an individual’s right to live and work in the United States, while failure to correctly file this form can lead to denial of status and potential legal repercussions. Consequences:

  • Approval: The applicant becomes a legal permanent resident with the benefits therein.
  • Denial: May lead to loss of lawful status and initiation of removal proceedings.

Consular Processing Outcomes

For Form I-130, or the Petition for Alien Relative, which a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident files for a family member, it is essential to understand the consequences of consular processing outcomes. I-130 is a prerequisite for family members who are outside the U.S. to apply for a visa through consular processing. Outcomes:

  • Approval: Establishes a familial relationship, allowing for a visa application.
  • Denial: Can lead to separation if family reunification is prevented or delayed.

Practical Tips for Applicants

When tackling the Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) and Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), applicants must navigate the process with precision and care. They should note the distinct purposes of each form: Form I-130 establishes the family relationship, while Form I-485 is for the beneficiary to apply for a green card based on that relationship. Timelines:

  • File Form I-130 first; it’s imperative to establish the familial relationship prior to adjusting status.
  • Once the I-130 is approved, the beneficiary can proceed with filing Form I-485 when a visa number is available.


  • Confirm all sections are fully completed. Missing information can result in delays or denials.
  • Include evidence such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and proof of citizenship or permanent residence status.

Form Specifics:

  • Form I-485 applicants should concurrently file Form I-765 (Employment Authorization) if they seek to work in the U.S. and Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document) if they intend to travel abroad while their application is pending.


  • Prior to submission, review all forms for accuracy and completion.
  • Use the current versions of the forms from the USCIS website to ensure compliance with latest instructions and requirements.

Supporting Documentation:

  • Provide the required financial evidence such as Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) to show the petitioner can financially support the relative.

Following these tips with diligence should streamline the application process and enhance an applicant’s chance of successful acceptance.