Every year thousands of people make the move to the United States for different reasons ranging from work to school to relationships. What begins as temporary short term visits may eventually become longing for a more permanent arrangement. For non-citizens, this can’t happen automatically. You’ll need to apply for permanent residency and get a green card. For this, use Form I-485. So, what does this entail, who’s eligible and how long does the process take? Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know.

 

What is Form I-485?

a copy of form I-485

Adjusting your status to a permanent resident in the United States is a big step. First, you need to apply for a green card with Form I-485, issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The form will allow you to register as a permanent resident or adjust your status to permanent resident. They might seem like the same thing, but they are not. Applying for status adjustment means you can obtain a green card without having to return to your home country (if you are already in the United States).

 

Who’s eligible?

U.S. Immigration laws allow certain people who have come into the U.S. as temporary visitors to become permanent residents. You are eligible if you are in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa such as a student visa, on temporary employment, engaged or married to a U.S. citizen. If you came into the U.S. on a temporary visa and married a U.S. citizen you are also eligible. It’s important to note that the foreign spouse must be physically based in the United States to be eligible. Refugees, people seeking asylum and Cuban nationalities may also qualify.

 

Who isn’t eligible?

If you are married to a U.S. citizen but not physically present in the U.S. you won’t be eligible. If you were admitted into the U.S. for transit purposes, brought in as a witness, informant or a crewman you are also not eligible. Also, anyone declared deportable such as those involved with terrorist groups are not eligible.
 
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However if in regular circumstances you are eligible, certain factors could deem you ineligible. For instance, being convicted of specific crimes. Alternatively, you are deemed ineligible if you are considered a threat to national security or you violate any U.S. immigration laws during your stay.

 

How much does the form cost?

If you are between the ages of 14 and 78, you are required to pay $1,140 for the form. During the filing process, you’ll also be required to pay an additional $85. For people filing the form as a refugee or seeking asylum, you are not required to pay any fees. You must pay for the form either by check or money order. It must come from a financial institution in the United States and be made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

 

Do you need an immigration lawyer for this?

Getting an immigration lawyer to help is always advisable. Every year, several people’s applications are turned down. A large percentage of that is due to mistakes made during the application process. Incorrectly filling and filing of your form could lead to significant delays and in the worst case, a denial. Immigration lawyers are expensive, so alternatively you could use an online platform to assist with the process. Or just do it yourself, with the help of someone who has been through the process before. Making an application with Form I-485 must come after an immigration petition has been put in on your behalf by either your family, your employers or your sponsor.

 

Where to submit the form?

This depends on what eligibility criteria you fall under. The USCIS provides a helpful chart with all the possible scenarios.

 

Is Form I-485 all you need?

No, it’s not. There are usually several forms and supporting documents you are required to submit either along with your form or prior to submission. For example, if your application is based on being the spouse of a U.S. citizen, besides the form you’ll also need to prove that your spouse entered the country on a valid visa. A photocopy of the visa and the travel record, proof of nationality and proof that the sponsoring spouse is financially able to support the spouse seeking a green card are all necessary.

form I-485 man filling out other documents

There are certainly other forms you need to fill out depending on your eligibility criteria. For example, the medical examination form. Once again the necessary documents and forms that are required for your application all depend on your eligibility criteria. If you are working with a lawyer they will help you figure out exactly which forms you’ll need. If you are not, you can find all the information you need on the USCIS website.

 

What happens after you submit the form?

The USCIS will mail you a letter confirming the receipt of your application. This usually comes in two or three weeks after you’ve applied (if everything was done properly). If the forms aren’t properly filled out you’ll be sent a ‘Notice of Action’ to inform you about the rejection of your application. Or ‘Request of Evidence’ that requires you to send in additional items that’ll be specified. The whole process is made up of several steps and the total processing time varies but can take a total of eight to fourteen months.

If your application is accepted, you become a permanent resident of the United States. Congratulations! This means you are eligible to work and live anywhere in the country for as long as you want. Getting set up with your new status can be a hassle. Don’t let finding a home be just another one of your worries. Avoid the stress of house hunting and dealing with real estate agents by staying with Blueground. Find your ideal accommodation in some of the country’s most sought after neighborhoods. The turnkey fully-furnished apartments and flexible booking system means you can be thriving like a local in no time.

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