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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Understanding The Form I-485 Adjustment of Status Process And Timeline

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What is Form I-485?

Form I-485, officially known as the “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status,” is a form used in the United States immigration process to apply for a green card, which grants lawful permanent resident status. This form is used by individuals who are already in the United States and wish to adjust their status from a nonimmigrant (temporary) status to that of a lawful permanent resident.

Here are some key points about Form I-485:

  • Adjustment of Status: Form I-485 is typically used by individuals who are already in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa (such as a student visa, work visa, or fiancé(e) visa) and want to become permanent residents without leaving the country.
  • Eligibility Criteria: The eligibility for filing Form I-485 depends on various factors, including the type of visa you hold, your relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, your employment-based status, asylum/refugee status, and other immigration categories.
  • Concurrent Filing: In some cases, Form I-485 can be filed concurrently with other petitions, such as Form I-130 (for family-sponsored immigrants) or Form I-140 (for employment-based immigrants). This allows certain categories of immigrants to streamline the process.
  • Biometrics Appointment: After submitting Form I-485, applicants typically receive a notice for a biometrics appointment. During this appointment, the applicant’s fingerprints, photograph, and signature are taken for background checks.
  • Interview: In many cases, applicants are required to attend an interview at a local USCIS office. The interview is an opportunity for USCIS officers to verify information, ask questions, and assess the authenticity of the application.
  • Additional Forms: Depending on the circumstances, applicants may need to submit additional forms and supporting documents along with Form I-485. These documents could include medical examinations, affidavits of support, and more.
  • Filing Fee: There is a filing fee associated with Form I-485. Fee waivers may be available for certain individuals based on financial hardship.
  • Green Card Issuance: If Form I-485 is approved, the applicant will receive their green card, which provides permanent resident status.

Always refer to the most up-to-date instructions provided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or consult with an immigration attorney if you’re considering filing Form I-485 or any other immigration-related applications.

What are Adjustment of Status eligibility requirements?

The eligibility requirements for adjusting your status to become a lawful permanent resident (obtaining a green card) in the United States can vary based on your specific circumstances. Here are some general eligibility criteria for adjustment of status:

  • Eligibility Category: You must fall into an eligible immigration category that allows for adjustment of status. This could include family-sponsored immigrants, employment-based immigrants, refugees or asylees, diversity visa lottery winners, certain crime victims, and other specialized categories.
  • Immigration Status: You must be physically present in the United States when you apply for adjustment of status. Typically, you should have entered the U.S. legally on a valid visa or be eligible for certain exceptions if you entered without inspection.
  • Eligibility for the Underlying Visa Category: Your eligibility for adjustment of status is often tied to the eligibility criteria of the underlying visa category. For example, if you’re applying through a family-sponsored category, you need to meet the requirements for that category (such as being an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen or a family preference category).
  • Priority Dates: Certain family-sponsored and employment-based immigrant categories have numerical limits each fiscal year. Your priority date (the date when your petition was filed) must be current according to the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin for your category and country of chargeability.
  • Admissibility: You must be admissible to the United States, which means you must not have violated certain immigration laws, committed certain crimes, or engaged in other prohibited activities that could make you ineligible for adjustment.
  • Criminal History: Depending on the nature and severity of your criminal history, you might be ineligible for adjustment of status. Some criminal offenses can result in inadmissibility.
  • Health Examination: Most applicants for adjustment of status are required to undergo a medical examination by an approved civil surgeon to ensure they don’t pose a public health risk.
  • Affidavit of Support: If you’re applying based on a family-sponsored category, you might need to have a sponsor submit an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) to demonstrate that you won’t become a public charge.
  • Public Charge Consideration: You must demonstrate that you are not likely to become a public charge (dependent on government benefits) in the U.S.
  • Documentation: You’ll need to submit the appropriate forms and supporting documentation, including forms specific to your category, biometrics, and any required fees.

It’s important to note that eligibility requirements can change, and there are additional nuances and exceptions within each category. To determine your specific eligibility for adjustment of status, consult the official U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, the instructions for the relevant forms, and consider seeking guidance from an immigration attorney.

How long does it take to get Form I-485 approved in the U.S.?

The processing time for Form I-485, the “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status,” can vary widely based on a variety of factors, including the USCIS office handling your case, your specific eligibility category, your location, and any potential complications in your application. Processing times were subject to change due to various factors, including workload, policy changes, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • USCIS Processing Times: The USCIS provides estimated processing times for Form I-485 on their official website. These estimates can give you an idea of the general timeline for processing. However, it’s important to remember that these are just estimates and can change over time.
  • Type of Eligibility: The processing time can vary depending on the eligibility category you’re applying under. Family-sponsored, employment-based, refugee/asylee, and other categories might have different processing timelines.
  • Location: The processing time can also vary based on where you live. USCIS field offices in different regions might have different caseloads and processing times.
  • Biometrics Appointment: After submitting Form I-485, you will typically receive a notice for a biometrics appointment. The processing time may be affected by the scheduling of this appointment and the subsequent biometrics check.
  • Interview: Some I-485 applications require an interview, while others may not. If an interview is required, this can add time to the processing, as it depends on the availability of USCIS interview slots.
  • RFEs and Additional Information: If the USCIS requests additional information or issues a Request for Evidence (RFE) for your application, it will extend the processing time as you’ll need to respond to their requests.
  • COVID-19 Impact: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to delays and changes in USCIS operations. Offices might have reduced capacity, leading to longer processing times.
  • Priority Dates: For certain family-sponsored and employment-based categories, the availability of visas is subject to priority dates based on the Visa Bulletin. Your processing time might depend on when your priority date becomes current.

Given these variables, it’s essential to check the USCIS website for the most current processing times specific to your situation. Remember that processing times are subject to change, and it’s not uncommon for them to be longer than initially estimated. If you have specific concerns about your case, consider consulting an immigration attorney for guidance and assistance.

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