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Adjustment of Status I-485

Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is used by a person in the United States to adjust his or her nonimmigrant status to that of a permanent resident. It is the final step of the Green Card Process.

How Long Does It Take to Receive Approval for My I-485 Application?

It varies dramatically from case to case, and from center to center. It also depends on your petition category (EB2 vs. EB3, for example). The bottleneck in I-485 processing used to be background checks, especially FBI name check. It was impossible to predict how long the background investigation would last. In some cases, it could take several years. However, the situation has improved since mid-2008. USCIS claims that as of March 2009, all FBI name check cases pending more than six months have been cleared. In fact, the FBI is completing over 99% name check requests within 30 days. USCIS and FBI Release Joint Plan to Eliminate Backlog of FBI Name Checks

Along with the good news on background checks, however, visa retrogression has significantly worsened. You must have an immigrant visa number available to you before your I-485 can be approved, which means your priority date (PD) has to be earlier than the cut-off dates established in the Visa Bulletin for your immigration category. If you have cleared all security checks, and your PD is current, and your I-485 received date (RD) is within USCIS processing window, you can probably expect an approval from a few months to one year.

Who may file I-485?
  • A person with an underlying immigrant petition (I-130, I-140), or will file along with an immigrant petition concurrently, and a visa number is available (this group include most family-based and employment-based applicants);
  • A spouse or child (derivative) of a principal applicant who files I-485;
  • A K-1 fiance(e) of a US citizen or a K-2 dependent (I-130 not required);
  • A K-3 spouse of a US citizen or a K-4 dependent (I-130 required);
  • A foreign investor with an underlying Form I-526;
  • A person with an underlying Form I-360 (pending, approved, or concurrently filed, depending on categories);
  • A person in asylum or refugee status;
  • A Cuban native or citizen;
  • A person qualified for "Registry" provision (living in US since before 1/1/1972);
Who is Not Eligible for Adjustment of Status:

(Except for Categories with Special Rules Such As 245(i), Asylum, etc.)

  • A person not admitted or paroled following inspection by an immigration officer;
  • A person's authorized stay expired before filing i-485;
  • A person with unauthorized employment;
  • A nonimmigrant who failed to maintain status (exceptions apply);
  • A crewman or a person entered in transit without a visa;
  • A J-1 visitor without a foreign residence waiver;
  • A K-1 fiance(e) who didn't marry the US citizen petitioner;
  • A visitor under the Visa Waiver Program, unless applied as an immediate relative of an US citizen;
What does My USCIS Case Number Mean?

USCIS assigns a 13-character case number (receipt number) to each application, for example: SRC 06 012 54321. A case number is structured like this: AAA-XX-YYY-Z-MMMM:

  • AAA: The service center or office that received your case. Other types include:
    • SRC: Texas Service Center (formerly Southern Regional Center)
    • LIN: Nebraska Service Center (named after Lincoln, NE)
    • WAC: California Service Center (formerly Western Adjudication Center)
    • EAC: Vermont Service Center (formerly Eastern Adjudication Center)
    • NBC: National Benefits Center (for N-400 Naturalization and other cases)
  • XX:The fiscal year of USCIS, from October 1 to September 30. Cases filed from 10/01/2006 to 09/30/2007 will have xx = 07.
  • YYY:The working day of the fiscal year when your case is received. 10/01 = 001
  • Z:This digit is part of a serial number but may have certain meanings for USCIS internal use.
  • MMMM:A serial number assigned to your case based on the number of cases received, starting from 0001
Is an interview required?

Employment-based I-485 cases are often adjudicated without interviews. But if your case is complicated such as involving prior arrests, you may be asked to go through an interview before your I-485 can be approved. USCIS will forward your case to a local office under such conditions. Marriage-based applicants are usually required to attend USCIS interviews.

Is an interview required?

RFE stands for Request For Evidence. USCIS will send you a RFE when they need more information from you, such as missing or incomplete documents in your application. It doesn't mean your case will be denied or approved soon, although after long delays in security checks, a RFE may be a good sign that your case is moving again. It is very important to respond to a RFE before the deadline.

Is an interview required?

It depends on what nonimmigrant status you are in. Generally speaking, you are under lawful "adjustment of status (AOS)" once you've filed I-485. If you also obtained EAD and AP, you will be able to work and travel without the need for a visa. But if you are in a visa status that allows "dual intent," such as H-1B and L1, it makes sense to keep your nonimmigrant status while your AOS is pending. Note that a new USCIS memo has languages that appear to contradict USCIS' existing policy, although USCIS denied any change of directions. Regardless, it is safer to always maintain lawful nonimmigrant status until adjustment of status application is approved. Sometimes it is impossible to remain in a non-immigrant status, such as B2, after filing for I-485, however.

What is "Authorized Stay?"

Certain people with accrued unlawful presence in the United States may still be eligible to apply for Adjustment of Status (under 245(i), for example). Such applicants, with properly filed and pending I-485, are considered "present in the US under a period of stay authorized by the attorney general." There are other cases, such as change of nonimmigrant status and refugee/asylee applications, where an applicant may be considered in such "authorized stay" status by the DHS. Note that "authorized stay" does not mean the alien is in "lawful status," but during "authorized stay" an alien would not accrue "unlawful presence."

Does a Speeding Ticket Need to Be Reported?

No. If it is just a traffic violation, and the only penalty is a fine of less than $500 and/or points on your driver's license, you do not need to submit any documentation. However, if it was drug or alcohol related (DUI) or otherwise an arrest was made during the incident, you must report it on your I-485 application.

How Long Does It Take to Receive Green Card After I-485 Approval?

The USCIS has been very quick nowadays to produce and mail out green cards once they approve the applications. Many people reported receiving their cards within one to two weeks, after "Card Production Ordered" confirmation. So in most cases it is no longer necessary to have your passport stamped as evidence that you have become a permanent resident.

Am I Allowed to Change Jobs with a Pending I-485?

Yes. If your adjustment of status case has been pending more than 180 days, and you have an approved I-140, you are permitted to change employers under AC-21. There are multiple restrictions, however, so please see our AC-21 page for more details.

Do I Still Need H1B, EAD, or AP After I485 Approval?

No. Your green card authorize you to permanently live and work in the United States. You may also use your green card to return to the US after trips that last less than one year. If you plan to domicile outside the US for one year or more, you need to apply for an reentry permit before your departure.

Do I Need a New Social Security Card After I-485 Approval?

You can apply for a Corrected Social Security Card that will remove the restriction on work authorization. Your SSN number remains the same.

Can I Get a Green Card without Filing I-485?

Yes, you may go through Consular Processing which requires a trip to a US embassy or consulate abroad. This is also the typical route for people who are outside the United States but wish to apply for green card from a foreign country. If successful, you will receive an immigrant visa and enter the U.S. as a permanent resident.

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