Welcome to the new Step-by-Step guide to filling out the newly updated form I-485, also known as the application to register permanent residence or adjust status
Form I-485 is the form that allows you to ask the U.S. government to grant you a green card. And it is this application that is filed by millions of immigrants all over the United States every single year when they are seeking their first two year card or their ten year permanent resident card.
How can you fill out the form I-485? You can fill it out on your computer using programs such as Adobe PDF, but you will have to print it out and mail it in. You can also alternately just print out the form and fill it out with a black pen. I don't recommend blue, I recommend use a black pen. But you will have to make a paper print either way. Make sure that whatever your signature is, it is either a wet ink signature or you can send a photocopy or a scanned copy that has been printed of your original wet ink signature. Otherwise, your application will get rejected.
Now what I'm going to do is walk you through, step by step through each section of the I-485 and explain what each of these sections are and what kind of information the government is seeking to understand about you and your application.
On the first page, one thing that I want to note is that the top section of the very first page is for government used only, which is why it says “For USCIS Only”. You should not touch this section and make sure to leave it blank.
And if you are working with an attorney, they would be the ones to fill out that section that is titled “To Be Completed By An Attorney or Accredited Representative (if any)”. Don't worry if you don't have an attorney, as you can see, it says clearly in parentheses “if any”, which means that you could also leave this blank.
Now in part one when the government asks for your current legal name, you must put down your actual current legal name, not prior versions or what you plan to change it to in the future. Something that I like to make sure in cases is to see if a client's current legal name matches the birth certificate, and if it does not I like to make sure that I include in the application documentation showing the legal change of the name. Below that section you will be listing any other names that you have used since birth, whether they were names that you used legally or whether they were family nicknames. And the purpose of this section is that the government may be using this to run additional name searches on your background.
Next, on page one, you most certainly must list your date of birth. For those of you who are not used to this, make sure you lost your month and then the date and then the year. And unfortunately, the forms do not provide any options for gender other than male or female. So you must select one of these.
And then put down your place of birth, which would include the city, the country, and then on the next page you'll see that there is also a space for country of citizenship or nationality. Now, just because you may have been born in a country will not always make you a citizen of that country, because not every country has that as a rule. So make sure you put down what your true nationality is.
If you have an A number, then you would also put your A Number here too. But not every single person has an A number, as normally you would only be issued an A Number if you have actually filed affirmative applications with USCIS in the past or if you have been in removal proceedings. If you don't have an A Number, then just leave it blank. Again, your clue that that would be okay is that fact that it says “if any” in parentheses right next to that field.
Here are some examples of where you can find your A number, including Notices to Appear, previous or expired or current Work Authorization Applications, and previous receipts from USCIS for application filed on your behalf. And if you have a USCIS account number, here is where you can put it down also.
Now on page two, you'll see additional fields for your mailing address and a safe or alternate mailing address. Please make sure that your mailing address is the place where you received mail. Of course, it may not always be the same as your physical address, so it's really important to make sure you put down where your mail should be sent. If you're applying for a VAWA, then you would be putting down your attorney's address or an alternate safe address in the section directly below that.
Looking at question number 14, if you have ever had a valid Social Security Number in the past then this is where you would fill out the information about whether you need a new Social Security card sent to you or not. And you would only be asking for a new card if you have never, ever had one before. For those of you who may have used fake Social Security numbers, that is not what this question is asking about.
And lastly, on this page, you would put down your recent immigration history, including your passport that was used at the last arrival or the travel document that was used at the last arrival. Now, normally speaking, a person who is stateless would have a travel document, but if you have a passport and you're not a refugee, then you would be filling out the passport information instead of the travel document section.
You will see in question number 23 A that USCIS is asking you about your place of last arrival in the United States. For those of you who have flown in through airports, this pretty easy. You would put down the city and state where the airport is. But if you came into the land border, then you would try to have to remember which port of entry you use. For those of you who entered without permission into the United States, you'll have to try to recall the proximate location where you crossed. And lastly, you have to do your best to put down your last date of arrival.
Moving on to page three, this part can be a little bit tricky for people. On question 25 A, they first ask when I last arrived in the United States, I was either inspected at the port of entry and admitted, or inspected at a port of entry and paroled, or I came into the United States without admission or parole, or other. Honestly speaking, these are kind of legal questions, and I would definitely recommend that you work with an attorney to have them fill out these parts for your application. But to explain some basic things, a port of entry is anything like an airport or a land checkpoint or even sometimes ports of entry that are for ships and cruises, whether you were admitted or paroled in, would usually be found directly inside your passport. And if you evaded all immigration laws and you cross the border illegally, then you would not have been inspected and you would have entered without admission or Pearl.
I do want to make a note that many times people will confuse the use of a fake passport or a fake visa as an illegal entry. That's not technically what this question is asking. An illegal entry is truly when you slipped into the country without detection or without any sort of inspection or interaction by a Customs and Border Patrol officer. When you're using a fake passport or a fake visa, that is really just an entry that is made with fraud or misrepresentation.
Now, you'll also see that this section is asking for your I-94 record of arrival or departure. This information can actually be found on the CBP website, if it's not inside your passport on the white I-94 card. The white I-94 card, which looks like this, was used in the past but it was phased out and CBP started issuing the I-94 electronically instead. Here is where you can look up your I-94 information and to find the information you do need to have the information of the passport that you use at the time of entry.
Number 26 B asks you for your date of expiration of your status. Normally you can find this on your I-94 or sometimes inside of your passport. And here is what it would look like. Don't get this confused with your visa validity, period. Sometimes, though, your status might be listed as “D/S”, which means Duration of Status. This means that your stay is authorized for as long as you're inside the United States not committing any violations of that status.
Number 27 is something that is interesting because number 27 asks “What is your current immigration status (if it has changed since your arrival)?” Here is where some attorneys might differ, but for me, if a client entered on a certain visa that is now expired, I usually put down in this field that the client has no status.
Part Two: Application Type or Fling Category. This is where you would have to select what is the basis of your eligibility under which you are filing for your I-485 Application to Adjust Status. If you are filing a form I-485, you must have an underlying application that you can attach to it, such as: Form I-130, which is for petitions for relatives of U.S. citizens; or a Form I-140, which is for employment based applications; or the Form I-360 VAWA application for spouses of U.S. citizens or parents of U.S. citizens who have been abused by them.
In addition, you may be able to file for adjustment of status when you have been granted a T visa status or a U visa status, or several other eligible programs for persons to seek residency and inside of the United States. Now, there are lots of types of categories, and you must choose this carefully because if you don't choose the right category, your application could get denied. Although if you have a very nice officer at the time of your interview, they might sometimes amend it for you.
If you're a derivative applicant when we get to this part at the end of section two on page four, you must put down the name of the principal applicant. For example, if you are a child who is 17 years old and your mother just got a green card and you are now requesting a derivative status on the basis of your mother's green card application, then the principal applicant would be the name of your mother and you must put in the additional information which also requires for you to know the receipt number of their case. And the priority date is the date that that application was filed. For example, it would be the date that the I-130 or the I-360 or the I-140 was filed.
Part Three: Information About You. Number one is a question that I think can be a little bit confusing because it asks "Have you ever applied for an immigrant visa to obtain permanent resident status at a U.S. embassy or a U.S. consulate abroad?" Now, this refers to whether you have ever had a relative try to petition for you and ask for an immigrant visa abroad.
Sometime so you can also have an employer try to petition for you and ask for your immigrant visa where you would go for an interview at the consulate. An immigrant visa is not the same as a visit visa or a student visa or any of those other letter type visas. An immigrant visa would be something that is usually associated with the I-130, I-360, or the I-140. So here is where if you have ever gone for an interview of that nature for one of those applications overseas, then you would have to fill out that information here.
Part three on page five, here is where you must provide your address history. And one thing that I want you to note is that you must list your address history for the last five years, every single place that you've lived at for the past five years. You should take the time to list it here as accurately as possible. Now, is it possible that you may not remember everything? Yes, it's certainly true. And it may also be possible that you don't remember all the dates exactly. When that happens, my recommendation is to estimate as well as you can, but you still want to be as thorough as possible about listing all the locations.
And the same goes for your employment history. Immigration is asking you on this page for your last five years of employment history, so please make sure you fill it out with the same type of attention.
Part four asks about your information about your parents, both of your parents, and they will also want to know where your parents are currently living, where they were born, and whether they are still alive. So this is your opportunity to fill out that information there.
And then USCIS will go into your marital history right below that on page seven. Here is where it can be a little bit tricky because this is a type of question that is not really used in normal language. That question is number three, which asks, “How many times have you been married (including annulled marriages and marriage to the same person)?”
If you've only been married to one person and you're still married to them, then that would be one. But if you had ever been previously divorced, or had a previous annulment, or even sometimes if you divorced your partner and then you get married back them again, then this answer would change from 1 to 2 or however number of times you've previously been married. And as a side note at your interview, they do ask you out loud “How many times have you been married?” Which is super confusing for most people. But just so you know, this is what this means.
And then you'll see right below that that there's information requested for current marriages and for past marital history as well. Moving on to part six, you do have to fill out information about your children. And guys, what this means is that you must list information about all of your children. Whether they're inside the United States, whether they're outside the United States, whether you never plan on asking for a green card for them, or whether you're including them for a green card status right now, if you have ever had a child, and you know who that child is, you should definitely be listing them in this section.
You'll see underneath each child there is a question asking whether “Is this child applying with you?” Literally what that means is, are they also going to be filing a green card application at the same time or around the same time as you?
Part seven talks about your biographic information. I call it biometric information. But here is where they ask you the super confusing questions about your race and ethnicity, and your height and weight, and eye color and hair color. So select what you feel best represents you.
Part Eight. Part eight is the part that can make or break your ability to get a green card because this is the inadmissibility section. Inadmissibilities are basically a barrier to you getting approved for a green card because an inadmissibility means that you're inadmissible and thus not eligible to be granted residency.
Some common inadmissibilities include working without authorization, having committed fraud or misrepresentation for the purpose of obtaining an immigration benefit, having a prior removal order that has not been dealt with, and certain criminal convictions. If you look at this section Part Eight contains a whopping 86 inadmissibility questions. The government takes that seriously that they asked you 86 questions. Realistically they actually ask you more because some of these questions are broken down into subsection parts.
This is why I, and most other immigration attorneys, are going to tell you you should really use a lawyer when working on this form because inadmissibility is a legal concept and has to be assessed properly. And if you are inadmissible for any reason because you've marked a yes to one of these questions, you must make sure you have the relevant defense or waiver or excuse available to you to allow the government to bypass that, to still grant you your residence.
It is really, really important to go through each of these questions carefully and honestly. USCIS asking you about your entire life, what asking these inadmissibility questions. And there's no time limitation. All of your answers regarding these questions must span the entirety of your life, because immigration is not asking about whether something happened in the past five years, but rather since the time that you were born.
And this is especially important when discussing and answering questions about your arrest history. I want to specially note this question right here, which you can see, Question #25: “Have you ever been arrested, cited, charged or detained for any reason by any law enforcement official, including but not limited to any U.S. immigration official or any official of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. Coast Guard?”
Now, I want to note because I want you to do as well as you can, this question is not asking, “Have you ever been convicted?” This question is asking, “Have you ever been cited or arrested, charged or detained?” So basically, if you have ever had any sort of negative interaction with law enforcement, you may have to answer yes to this question. And thus, if you do have to answer yes this question, then I'd definitely advise you to speak with a with an experienced immigration attorney. Something that may have been just a minor offense, may actually have serious immigration repercussions.
And to when we get to this section on public assistance, here's where it might get tricky. You must answer whether you are subject to the Public Charge or not. Now here's the thing, the majority people are subject to the public charge rule, which can make you inadmissible if you don't have enough assets or if you have taken certain public benefits.
But this does not apply to applicants in the following categories. For example, if you are filing for a green card based upon VAWA, you are not subject to public charge. Next, if you are filing for a green card based upon asylum, a T visa, or a U visa, you are also not subject to the public charge. But if you are subject to public charge, you must continue to fill out all of this information regarding your education, your income level, your assets, and your liabilities and so on and so forth.
Now lastly, the sections for nine through 13 are really about signatures. For example, if you have a disability and you require accommodation, it is important for you to fill this part out because this will let the officer know in advance if they do require you to have an interview, that they must provide you with some special accommodation.
Part ten has to do with whether you understand English, and whether you were able to complete this form on your own or whether you use the assistance of an interpreter. Now, if you have to use an interpreter, then naturally they will probably direct you to this section to help you fill this out. You must also sign this section and put down your contact information in which they will verify with you at the interview.
Section 11 is where the interpreter would put down their information and sign attesting to the truth of their interpretation as well. Section 12 is to be signed by your attorney or accredited representative or whoever helped you fill out your application. Section 13 is meant only to be signed at the interview in the presence of the officer.
My name is Moumita Rahman and I have been practicing immigration law for the past 13 years. If you want my help on your case, give us a call at 212-248-7907 to see if we can help you get a case evaluation. We're based in New York, but we serve immigrants all over the United States in all 50 states.
After you submit your I-485 USCIS will send you receipts by mail, which will have your receipt number on it. This is your unique case number for your I-485, and you can actually look up your status online with this number. You may see different statuses, including the status saying “actively reviewed”. To find out what this means and what you should do, watch my video discussing this very subject. Click to watch now and I'll see you there.