Form I-485: A Beginner’s Guide

Form I-485: A Beginner’s Guide

Form I-485 is an important application used to register people to reside permanently in the United States. Those who are filing for a green card will need to fill out this application on their path toward permanent residence. Through this application, people will seek to adjust their status officially to “immigrant.” If this form is approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the person may reside in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. This guide will explain more about this immigration form and explain the process of filing it.

Related: How Long Does It Take to Get Citizenship After You Apply?

What is Form I-485?

As stated, the Form I-485 is one of several immigration forms that you will need on the path to citizenship. The I-485 is an application to obtain a green card and live in the United States permanently. 

This form is commonly filed after the Form I-130 is filed (a petition to prove a relationship with a U.S. citizen) or form I-140 (an employment based petition). For those seeking a green card via marriage or based on employment, you will need the I-485 to provide proof of eligibility in becoming a green card holder or permanent resident.

Want to make sure you are covered through the entire green card process? Brudner Law is here to help you every step of the way — call us today.  


To be eligible for I-485 approval from the immigration services, you must meet the criteria from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Applicants will be able to apply based on qualifying in one of these categories. As you see from following the link, you will be able to select your unique case from the options to see if you are eligible for I-485 approval. 

When it comes to obtaining your green card via marriage, the foreign spouse must meet these criteria to be eligible to file the I-485: 

  • Spouse must have entered the U.S. on a valid visa (inspected and admitted at the border).
  • A visa must be “immediately available.”
  • The Form-130 must already be approved, or filed at the same time as the I-485

Eligibility Exclusions

The immigration services will not approve your I-485 application if you fall under the following conditions: 

  • If you are a spouse who is not currently in the U.S. 
  • You came into the U.S. for work as a crewman
  • You entered the U.S. under the pretense of traveling elsewhere
  • You are in the U.S. as an informant or witness in a law case
  • You are deemed deportable due to a terrorism affiliation

The following criteria will also render you unable to obtain a green card: 

  • You have a contagious disease or dangerous mental condition
  • You have have serious crime convictions
  • The United States deems you a threat
  • You have been dishonest or have previous immigration violations. 
  • You are too likely to become dependent on public benefits in the U.S. 
  • Other legal and ethical matters such as a history of polygamy, child abduction, and others.

Supporting documents

You will need to mail these documents with your I-485 form that prove your eligibility for a green card. 

These are the other supporting documents you will need for seeking a green card through marriage: 

  • Documents that prove you came into the U.S. on a valid visa with your Form I-94 travel history. 
  • Proof of your foreign nationality, including your passport and birth certificate.
  • Any criminal and arrest records 
  • Medical examination forms from an authorized USCIS doctor
  • And for those seeking green cards via marriage: financial documents like tax returns that show the U.S. sponsoring spouse can support you while you apply for your green card

Helpful tips for filling out the form

woman standing near wall

Here are some tips that will help you fill out the I-485 as smoothly as possible: 

  • If you do not have a social security number or alien number (A#), you can write N/A or “not applicable.”
  • In Part 1 of the I-485, your “date of last arrival” means the most recent date you stepped into the U.S. This isn’t the date you first entered the U.S. unless the first time was the only time you entered. 
  • In Part 2 of the form, you will choose the reason you are eligible for a green card via the I-485. For most cases, you will fall under the boxes within 1.a to 1.c. However, this is an area you may want to discuss with your immigration lawyer
  • When filling out parts 3-7 of the form, be mindful that when disclosing affiliation with organizations, the United States may judge you “inadmissible” if they find any link to terrorist groups.

Related: Immigration Interview Questions You Need to Know

Processing time

a man looking at his watch

The processing time for the I-485 can vary greatly as many immigration situations are highly unique and require a great amount of attention. You can expect an answer in a few months all the way up to a few years. If you have everything filled out correctly and fall within all the correct criteria to obtain your green card, expect the shorter timeline of a couple months. 

I-485 vs. I-130

An American flag flying outside of a court building

The main difference between these two forms is that the Form I-130 is the first step to petition to bring you into the United States, whereas the I-485 is the second step in gaining your green card and residency. 

However, you may be eligible to file the I-130 and I-485 at the same time, which would the fastest way to proceed.

Looking for professional help in gaining your green card? Brudner Law has immigration attorneys in Orange County  who can help you realize your dream — get in touch with us today.

The immigration process can be incredibly difficult, but we are here to help you get your paperwork in order to gain you permanent residence in the United States. Get in touch with Brudner Law to speak with expert lawyers who know what it means to be an immigrant and know what it takes to get you through the system quickly, legally, and safely. 

Related: When Do You Need an Immigration Lawyer?