What Happens after Filing Form I-485?
Updated on 02/04/2021
It is a wonderful day when you are able to submit your Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. But once the paperwork goes in the mail to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) you may feel nervous about how long it will take to get the form processed.
What happens along the timeline from your Form I-485 submission to its processing can depend on the number of applications currently being handled by the USCIS. However, there is a range of normal processing times for a green card, and there are several methods for checking its status after it is filed.
1. Purpose of a Form I-485
The purpose of the Form I-485 is for use by a foreigner in the United States who is applying for lawful permanent residency (green card).
The requirements to be eligible for a green card depend on the category of eligibility. There may be a long timeline before a foreigner can file a Form I-485, or the path to a green card may be shorter. No matter how long it takes to qualify for a green card, after filing a Form I-485 the USCIS will provide a receipt to the applicant.
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2. Form I-485 Receipt from the USCIS
After the USCIS receives a Form I-485 they will notify the sender by mailing out a Form I-797C, Notice of Action (receipt notice, see sample below). Generally, the receipt notice will be sent out by the USCIS after approximately 2-4 weeks after the USCIS receives the I-485.
On the I-485 receipt notice there is a 13-digit receipt number to which the green card applicant can refer when making an inquiry on USCIS case status page about their I-485 case status. Further, those who have established a myUSCIS case status account can receive case update notification automatically if they have activated the email or text message alert in the account.
If, for some reason, the Form I-485 application is missing signature or other material incompleteness, the entire I-485 application will be rejected by the USCIS and returned to the applicant.
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3. Form I-485 Processing Steps and Timeline
If everything is in order with the Form I-485 application, and the green card applicant has received an I-485 receipt notice, there will still be further processing time with the USCIS.
1) Biometrics Appointment
Approximately 3-5 weeks after submitting the Form I-485 to the USCIS, the green card candidate should receive a notice about their biometrics appointment. Due to the pandemic of COVID-19, applicants should expect more time to waiting for the coming of their biometrics appointment notice.
The purpose of a biometrics appointment is to obtain fingerprints，photo and signature from the green card applicant so that a background check can be performed about them. When the green card applicant receives their biometrics notice, they will see that their appointment has been scheduled for a date in the coming 2-3 weeks.
At the appointment, the entire process should take approximately 15-20 minutes. The green card candidate should be sure to bring a valid form of photo identification, such as a passport, military ID, state-issued identification, or a driver’s license. You may learn more about a biometrics appointment in our article Biometrics Appointment FAQ.
2) Request for Initial Evidence (most likely not if the submitted I-485 application is complete)
If the applicant file a complete I-485 application with all supporting documents as required, it is not likely to receive a Request for Initial Evidence (RFE) from the USCIS. Only those who have problems in their certificate of birth, or insufficient in I-864 Affidavit of Support for family-based green card applications might receive such RFE in the mail.
The USCIS usually issues such RFE 2-3 months after green card applicants file their I-485 applications. Generally, applicants have 87 days to respond the RFE. Failure to do so will result a denial to their I-485 applications.
3) Receiving EAD and/or Advance Parole if applicants apply for them at the initial filing
Foreigners can apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) and/or advance parole together with their I-485 form by submission of I-765 form and I-131 form. Such applications will get approved about 3-6 months after filing I-485 form. However, if there is a Request for Initial Evidence (RFE), the USCIS will not approve them unless the USCIS satisfied with the RFE response.
4) Green Card Interview (not required for some green card applicants)
Green card interview, also known as I-485 adjustment of status interview, is mandatory for all employment-based green card applicants and marriage-based green card applicants. In addition, applicants who have criminal record or other situation that probably causes them ineligible to a green card will be required to appear at an adjustment of status interview as well.
Frustrating thing is that it is not easy to predict accurately when an interview will be scheduled after filing the I-485 form. It much depends on each USCIS local field office’s case load. It varies from 3 months to 24 months as some field offices have light workload while others work heavily. Nevertheless, if there is an interview, green card applicants will receive an interview notice 3-6 weeks prior to their interview date. As a result, they should have enough time to prepare for their I-485 interview. The interview notice will state clearly the date, time, and location of the interview.
At the green card interview, a USCIS adjudicator will review the information on the applications form, as well as the supporting documentation. You should bring the originals of your documents previously submitted to the USCIS as copies, your passport, and any advance parole or employment authorization documents. It is also a good time to submit documents to the interview officer that missing in your initial filing or additional ones that supplement to your green card application.
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5) Request for Evidence and/or Second Interview (not applicable for most applciants)
After the interview, the USCIS adjudicator will thoroughly review the green card application. If any material document is missed, the officer will send applicants a Request for Evidence to ask for it. Again, there are 87 days to respond such request.
For marriage green card applications, if the officer suspects the marriage, a second interview could be scheduled. Apparently, it will drag on long time to get final adjudication to the green card application. As such, it is advisable to get well prepared for a second interview by consulting with an immigration attorney with extensive experience in marriage green card.
6) Receiving Green Card
If everything in your green card application is complete and you are eligible for a green card, you will finally receive a Permanent Resident Card (green card) in the mail. Actually, if the case status of your I-485 application indicated on the USCIS’s website is either as “USCIS approved your Form I-485 ……” or as “We ordered your new card……”, it means your green card application gets approved by the USCIS and a green card will be mailed to you within 2-4 weeks.
4. Green Card Applications outside Normal I-485 Processing Times
The average processing time for a Form I-485 can vary depending on the USCIS field office nearest the green card applicant. The applicant can check for the normal I-485 processing times on the USCIS website.
If an I-485 applicant has not received some type of case update from the USCIS, or their receipt date on their I-485 receipt notice is behind the “Receipt date for a case inquiry date” indicated on the page of normal I-485 processing times, they can submit a case inquiry online, and an officer can respond to them regarding the reason for the delay. Case inquiries may also be made by calling the USCIS Contact Center at (800) 375-5283.
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