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The Ultimate Guide To Form I-485 Applications

Filing an I-485 application is a key part of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program process. In this article, we explain why it matters, what to do before and after filing, and more.

Here’s what we’re going to cover:

I-485 Application Summarized

  • Form I-485 makes it possible for foreign nationals on temporary visas who meet eligibility requirements to receive conditional permanent resident status (a two-year Green Card) in the United States.
  • An applicant typically files Form I-485 with the help of an immigration attorney along with a fee that has increased from $1,140 to $1,440, effective April 1, 2024.
  • The form is available at the United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) website.

I-485 Application Basics

Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, allows EB-5 investors and selected others living in the United States on temporary visas to change their immigration status to lawful permanent resident. USCIS sometimes refers to this form as an application for adjustment of status.

Form I-485 is available online free of charge. If you lack reliable internet access, you may call the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 and ask that it mail you a hard copy.

Every I-485 petitioner must be physically present in the United States and have a U.S. address to file the form. They do not have to return to their home country to finish visa processing.

Applicants who receive conditional permanent residence may continue to live, work, and travel in the United States freely while fulfilling the EB-5 program’s requirements.

The entire family can obtain permanent residency. The EB-5 principal applicant, their spouse, and their unmarried children under the age of 21 must each submit one Form I-485 to receive Green Cards and become conditional permanent residents of the United States.

Where Does Form I-485 Fit into the EB-5 Immigration Process?

Submitting Form I-485 is one component in a larger EB-5 immigration process that involves filing multiple forms.

If you are an EB-5 investor, you must submit your Form I-485 to the right filing location and receive approval before you can get a Green Card. You can remain in the United States legally after you file your I-485.

When to File Form I-485

The best time to file Form I-485 is after you have confirmed that you have met several essential criteria.
Visa Availability

First, look at the latest Visa Bulletin. If a visa is currently available in your immigration category, you can file the form using the listed “date for filing.” Otherwise, the listed “final action date” should be used.

Follow this simple three-step process:

  • Identify your visa type in the first column of the corresponding chart (“employment-based” for EB-5 investors).
  • Identify the corresponding date under your country of origin.
  • You may file an adjustment of status form if the chart shows you are current (marked by a “C”).

Concurrent Filing with I-526

Thanks to the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022, you also no longer have to wait for USCIS approval of Form I-526 or I-526E to file Form I-485. Instead, you can save time and speed up the approval process by filing both concurrently.

Once USCIS confirms that it has received your Form I-526E (you do not have to wait for approval), you may file Form I-485. Enclose a copy of Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice, along with Form I-485.

Concurrent filing gives EB-5 investors access to all the benefits of lawful permanent resident status while they wait for their I-526E approvals. They may receive a travel permit and employment authorization document in a matter of days, which makes life in the United States much easier as their applications move through the process.

However, remember that concurrent filing is only an option if you:

  • Were born in a country that is not subject to visa retrogression (or you are investing in a set-aside category in “current” status.)
  • Already reside in the United States.
Exception: File DS-260 If You Still Live Abroad

If you live abroad and your form I-526E has been approved, then you must first file Form DS-260 instead. You should send the form for processing to your home nation’s most convenient U.S. consulate or embassy.

After USCIS approves it, you will become an EB-5 immigrant visa holder and will be able to travel to and reside in the United States.

Read our guide to DS-260 applications to find out more.

Conditional Permanent Residency and Removing Conditions

After USCIS judges that the applicant has fulfilled all I-485 requirements and the U.S. Department of State allocates an immigrant visa, the I-485 is approved. Applicants should receive Permanent Resident Cards (Green Cards) in the mail within a few weeks of this.

I-485 approval confers conditional permanent resident status for up to two years. There is no option to renew this status.

The investor must file an I-829 petition within the last 90 days of this period to remove conditions and become a lawful permanent resident.

Gaining I-829 approval is the final step of the EB-5 process.

Essential Documents for I-485 Approval

USCIS requires each applicant to provide some biographical information on Form I-485 to aid in the adjudication process. We highly recommend that you seek legal counsel from an experienced immigration attorney before filling out and filing this form.

You must provide the following evidence and supporting documents to receive USCIS’s approval of your Form I-485:

  1. Proof of eligibility: If filing concurrently with your I-526E immigrant petition, include a copy of the I-526E. Alternatively, include a copy of Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice, an official acknowledgment from USCIS of the immigrant petition. Either document is evidence that the applicant is eligible for adjustment of status.
  2. Personal records: Copies of your birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), and divorce certificate (if applicable).
  3. Photos: Two identical, glossy, passport-style color photographs with a white background, taken within the previous 30 days.
  4. Passport and immigration documents: Copies of your complete passport (or another government-issued identity document) and documents showing that you were inspected by an immigration officer and either admitted or paroled into the United States. The latter may include Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record or a passport page that displays a parole stamp or visa.
  5. Criminal history records: Written evidence of criminal history, if any.
  6. Medical records: Copies of medical exam results and vaccination records.
  7. Biographic information: An applicant’s qualified immediate relatives should each fill out and submit Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
  8. Biometrics: USCIS may require you to provide fingerprints, photographs, and/or your signature at a biometrics appointment. If applicable, USCIS will notify you of the time, date, and location of your appointment.

You must also include the correct filing fee.

What Is the Filing Fee?

The filing fee has increased from $1,140 ($1,225 with biometric services) to $1,440 (with biometric services), effective April 1, 2024.

USCIS will reject any application filed on or after this date if the updated fee is not enclosed.

Where Should I Mail My I-485?

USCIS offices and processing centers all over the United States process I-485 applications. However, it is not possible for members of the public to visit processing centers or to deliver their I-485s in person.

Instead, EB-5 investors must mail hard copies of their I-485 petitions to the appropriate USCIS lockbox.

Each lockbox facility collects documents and filing fees. It also issues a preliminary acceptance or rejection of the application based on the fee provided. A rejection at this stage probably means the incorrect fee was enclosed.

EB-5 investors should submit their I-485s by mail or courier service to one of the following lockboxes, depending on their chosen delivery service. As addresses sometimes change, check the list of USCIS direct addresses for the most up-to-date information before mailing.

USCIS Dallas Lockbox

U.S. Postal Service (USPS)

Attn: I-526/E
P.O. Box 660168
Dallas, TX 75266-0168

FedEx, UPS, and DHL Deliveries

Attn: I-526/E (Box 660168)
2501 S. State Highway 121 Business
Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067-8003

You may also sign up to receive an email and/or text message alert that confirms the USCIS lockbox accepted your form. Do so by filling out Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, and attaching it to the first page of your application.

What Is the Processing Time for Form I-485?

Processing times for I-485 applications and circumstances vary.

The median processing time for employment-based I-485 adjudications decreased from 10 months in FY 2019 to 8.6 months in FY 2023, according to the USCIS Historical National Median Processing Time page.

USCIS notifies applicants by email or physical mail when their applications have been processed.

How Can I Get I-485 Approval Faster?

It’s good news for investors that median processing times have decreased in recent years. However, it’s easy to make a mistake that may extend your processing time.

This may result in USCIS contacting you to request additional evidence.

Under the worst-case scenario, USCIS will deny your application. Generally, you will not be able to appeal a decision to deny an adjustment of status application.

It pays to do everything you can to maximize your chances of approval the first time you apply.

Best Practices in Filing Petitions

You can improve your chances of avoiding delays or a denial by following these tips in completing your I-485 petition:

  • Understand and ensure you meet all eligibility criteria for adjustment of status.
  • Confirm you are using the most recent edition of Form I-485 (released on February 21, 2023).
  • Read the filing instructions carefully.
  • Ensure your answers are full and accurate.
  • Type your responses or write them out neatly in black ink.
  • Include all required supporting documentation and correct fees.
  • Review this checklist of required initial evidence.
  • Submit photos that match the specifications described in the form instructions.
  • Work with an experienced immigration lawyer to draft and submit the I-485.
  • Include a complete Form I-693, Report of Immigration Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, signed by a civil surgeon. This is valid for two years from the signature’s date.
  • File Forms I-485 and I-526 concurrently.
  • Respond to any USCIS requests for evidence promptly.
  • Work with an experienced immigration attorney to address any specific legal problems that may arise related to your case.

While you await approval of your application, you should maintain your lawful status in the United States and monitor USCIS announcements for any updates to the process.

It’s also a good idea to make copies of your entire application, supporting documents, and receipts. Keep them in a safe place in case you need to refer to them later on.

Request Expedited Processing from the USCIS Contact Center

You can request expedited processing of your application, petition, or related requests by reaching out to the USCIS Contact Center.

It offers a variety of online tools and can also be reached by phone at 800-375-5283 (from inside the United States) or 212-620-3418 (from outside the United States).

USCIS considers these requests on a case-by-case basis, and it may ask you to provide additional information.

Can I Work or Travel While the I-485 Is Being Processed?

EB-5 applicants may continue to travel internationally and work while awaiting a decision on their I-485 petitions.

However, doing either of these requires filling out separate applications.

Application for Travel Document

To travel during the I-485 processing time frame, submit Form I-131, Application for Travel Document to USCIS. This allows you to obtain advance parole and temporarily travel outside the United States.

Receiving a travel permit means you can travel abroad freely without abandoning the I-485 petition. Note that you must request it before leaving to avoid disqualification of your form.

You do not have to pay the usual I-131 fee if your I-485 is pending adjudication.

Employment Authorization Document

If your Form I-485 is pending adjudication and you or a family member want to work in the United States during the interim period, your employer may require you to file Form I-765 to get a work permit. Filing Form I-765 form means you can request an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Once your I-485 is approved, an EAD is not required if you wish to work in the United States. Lawful permanent residents of the United States do not need one, because the Green Card itself is proof of employment authorization.

What Are the Next Steps After I-485 Approval?

After an EB-5 investor receives approval for Form I-485, they gain conditional permanent resident status for a two-year period that cannot be extended.

If the investor departs the United States for a period of more than six months during that time, USCIS may question the petitioner’s intent to reside in the country permanently.

File an I-829 Petition

To gain unconditional permanent residency, the investor must file an I-829 petition.

This form shows that their investment has complied with the EB-5 program. It must be filed within the last 90 days of the conditional residence period.

Once the investor’s I-829 petition is approved, the investor, their spouse, and any unmarried children under the age of 21 gain lawful permanent resident status. All conditions are removed at this time.

Consider Applying for U.S. Citizenship

Once EB-5 investors have held Green Cards for five years (including the two years as conditional permanent residents), they may wish to apply for U.S. citizenship.

Benefits of U.S. Citizenship

Some of the advantages of receiving citizenship beyond permanent residency include:

  • The ability to vote in local, state, and federal elections.
  • The ability to run for most public offices.
  • The ability to receive a U.S. passport and U.S. aid when overseas.
  • Access to federal jobs, college assistance, and social programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
  • Faster processing of family members sponsored for Green Cards.

Responsibilities of U.S. Citizenship

Foreign nationals who accept U.S. citizenship will be expected to take on the following responsibilities as well:

  • Swearing allegiance to the United States.
  • Giving up allegiance to any other country.
  • Supporting and defending the Constitution and U.S. laws.
  • Participating in the political process by voting in elections.
  • Serving on a jury if selected.
  • Being subject to tax laws.
  • Registering with the Selective Service (only for males from 18 through 25 years old).

The Naturalization Process

When a Green Card holder applies for citizenship, the process is called naturalization. An eligible foreign national must:

  • File Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, for USCIS approval. Form N-400 enables a permanent resident to prove their eligibility for citizenship.
  • Have held U.S. permanent resident status for at least five years, or have served in the U.S. military.
  • Participate in an interview with USCIS.
  • Pass an English language and U.S. civics test.
  • Submit fingerprints and demonstrate proof of a clean criminal record.

The naturalization process can take over six months.

Is Form I-485 Only for EB-5 Investors?

EB-5 investors are not the only individuals who can file Form I-485.

Any eligible foreign national temporarily living in the United States who seeks to change their immigration status and become a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder) will need to submit one of these forms as well.

This applies to many non-immigrant classifications and temporary visas.

Other Employment-Based Visa Holders

Participants under the following other employment-based categories frequently submit I-485s to become lawful permanent residents.

  • EB-1 (first preference) priority workers, including those of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and certain multinational managers or executives.
  • EB-2 (second preference) advanced degree holders or those of exceptional ability.
  • EB-3 (third preference) skilled workers, professionals, and unskilled workers.
  • EB-4 (fourth preference) special immigrants, including religious workers, employees of the U.S. government and their family members, and certain physicians.

Other Visa Holders

The form can also be used to adjust the immigration status of other foreign nationals who hold different types of visas. Some of these include:

  • F-1 Student, H-1B Specialty Occupations, L-1, and NAFTA Professional (TN) visa holders.
  • Asylees and refugees.
  • Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery winners.
  • Self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
  • Recipients of humanitarian parole or who are approved under the Cuban Adjustment Act.
  • Those who fall under the registry provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Foreign Nationals Who Cannot Get I-485 Approval

Certain foreign nationals are ineligible to apply for adjustment of status and become lawful permanent residents of the United States. These restrictions, outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act, are called grounds of inadmissibility.

Such grounds generally fall under four broad categories:

  • Medical.
  • Criminal.
  • National Security.
  • Fraud.

Those found to be inadmissible may appeal and request a waiver of inadmissibility if they are eligible. Approval of this waiver is discretionary. The waiver must also apply to the relevant inadmissibility ground.

Under this scenario, the applicant may only receive I-485 approval after the waiver is granted.

For the Best Chance of Success, Partner with EB5AN

Filing Form I-485 is a crucial step in the EB-5 visa process, but there is far more to the EB-5 journey than this.

To navigate the complexities of the process and ensure you receive your immigrant visa, be sure to work with a trusted partner.

EB5AN has helped more than 2,300 families from 60 countries relocate to the United States as lawful permanent residents. Our expert team has more than a decade of experience, and offers clients first-rate, low-risk EB-5 regional center projects with a 100% USCIS project approval rate to date.

To learn more about Form I-485 and seek help with your EB-5 application, book a free call with our team who can provide you with helpful EB-5 services, from identifying strong regional center projects and experienced immigration attorneys to filing petitions.