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Qualifying for employment-based permanent residency can be a long but worthwhile process and has many advantages. Using the I-485 form to file for a status adjustment is one of several ways to acquire this status. Read on for more information about the employment green card timeline, including how long you'll likely have to wait to acquire a green card via a status adjustment.
Registering for or adjusting the status of a legitimate permanent residency in the United States is a big step, and the process can be troublesome and lengthy. You may be eager to know what happens after you file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and how long it will take to obtain your green card. We provide an overview of the processing time for the I-485 form and any necessary follow-up steps.
Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the U.S government agency responsible for processing green card applications and other immigration forms. While the steps are fairly consistent, the waiting period to process Form I-485 will vary dramatically based on individual circumstances, USCIS caseload, and whether you’ve prepared your status adjustment application package correctly. The following outline explains the key steps of the I-485 timeline and is applicable for most individuals.
During the process leading up to the interview, if any information, such as your address or employer, changes, alert USCIS within ten days of the change by calling +1 (800) 375-5283.
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Notice of Action
You’ll receive your Notice of Action approximately 2-3 weeks after filing Form I-485.
After filing Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status properly), USCIS will respond initially by sending you a notification by mail confirming your application’s receipt. If you’ve prepared Form I-485 correctly, Notice of Action (formally known as Form I-797C) will typically arrive within 2-3 weeks of submitting your application. However, suppose there were mistakes in your application, or you did not fill out the I-485 form correctly. In that case, USCIS will contact you and request more evidence of your identity, which could dramatically delay your application. It is imperative to be thorough to ensure your initial application is accurate.
Notice of Biometric Services Appointment
You’ll receive notice of your Biometric Services Appointment approximately 3-5 weeks after filing Form I-485.
How quickly you receive notice of your Biometric Services Appointment can depend heavily upon the USCIS caseload in your area. If you haven’t received anything within this time frame, you can make an inquiry with USCIS. Your Biometric Services Appointment will take place in the USCIS Application Support Center nearest you. Your appointment will require you to be fingerprinted for the purpose of conducting a criminal background check and obtaining a security clearance, which is standard procedure for all applicants and is no cause for alarm.
The U.S. government has set charges for your application once your petition is approved. As of 2020, the fee for filing your Form I-485 green card application is $1,140, plus a biometrics fee of $85.
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Biometric Services Appointment
Your Biometric Services Appointment will be scheduled approximately 5-8 weeks after filing Form I-485.
Your Biometric Services Appointment should take about 30 minutes). In this appointment, USCIS will collect your fingerprints, photograph, and signature. The aforementioned notice of your Biometric Services Appointment will notate what you need to bring to your appointment. This may be documentation such as:
- Passport or national photo identification issued by your country
- Driver’s license
- Military photo identification
- State-issued photo identification card
It’s important to remember that this is not your interview, and the sole purpose of this appointment is to collect your biometrics. However, it’s equally as important to try and attend the appointment given to you by USCIS, as rescheduling could lengthen your wait by weeks or even months.
If you’re worried you may have a criminal record, it’s wise to seek out an immigration lawyer to look through your background before your biometrics appointment. Some crimes can deem you ineligible for your green card, and an immigration lawyer will be able to perform a check before USCIS does and deal with the results as necessary.
Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card
You’ll receive your EAD card approximately 12-16 weeks after filing Form I-485.
You will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card if you have also submitted Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) and Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document) as part of your status adjustment application package. The EAD card is often referred to as a “work permit.” The EAD card and Advance Parole travel documents are usually combined on a single card if you have applied for both. With this combo card, your status is adjusted and you are considered—according to the Advance Parole criteria—an individual who can work in the United States and travel outside the United States.
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Notice of Interview
You’ll receive notice of your Interview approximately 4-10 months after filing Form I-485.
Within 4-10 months of your initial application, you’ll receive Form I-797 (Notice of Action). This form provides information about your interview, which will be conducted by a USCIS officer to help make the final decision about your green card application. In most cases, the interview will be held at the USCIS Application Support Center nearest you and should take about 30 minutes. The notice of your interview will notate any further documents or evidence you may need to provide, so be sure to read it thoroughly and prepare as much as possible for your interview.
Adjustment of Status Interview
Your Adjustment of Status Interview will be scheduled approximately 6-12 months after filing Form I-485.
Arrive prepared for your Adjustment of Status Interview. Be sure to study your I-485 form and any other related documents to ensure you’re prepared for any questions you may be asked. If any of the information has changed since your initial application, such as a change of employer or address, be sure to take proof of the changes with you.
The following lists what you’ll be expected to bring with you to your status interview; however, be sure to review and follow the guidelines in your Notice of Interview letter:
- A complete copy of your immigrant petition and adjustment of status application. The USCIS officer will be reviewing these documents, so be able to explain your answers if necessary.
- Originals of any documents that you originally submitted copies of to USCIS, such as birth and marriage certificates.
- Advance Parole document and/or Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card (if you have one).
- Your passport, which contains the nonimmigrant visa by which you entered the U.S.
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Receive Permanent Residence
You’ll receive Permanent Residence Status approximately 8-14 months after filing Form I-485.
In some cases, your USCIS officer may be able to confirm whether your application is successful at the close of your status interview. If this is the case, your green card will be mailed to you shortly after your interview. If there are problems or queries, USCIS may extend the process and invite you for another interview at a later date to give you time to sort out the evidence necessary to support your application. If USCIS denies your application, they will mail you a notice explaining the reasons for the Adjustment of Status denial.
Once you have received your green card, you will no longer need your EAD card, and you have the right to work and travel outside of the United States. You can request USCIS to place an “I-551” stamp on your passport. This stamp is temporary proof that you are a permanent resident and are valid for re-entry at a U.S. port of entry.
If the I-485 application process runs smoothly, it usually takes between 8 and 14 months in total. Issues with Form I-485 can substantially lengthen the time you have to wait between each step. If you feel that you have been waiting longer than usual, you can inquire with USCIS. Remember to keep in mind that more prominent cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, may have longer wait times, depending on the USCIS caseload. You can always check your application’s status online using the ten digits at the top of your Form I-797C, Notice of Action. The USCIS website also lists standard waiting times for each area, which will give you a better idea of how long you might have to wait between correspondence.
Taking the extra time and care to complete your Form I-485 correctly and thoroughly will keep the process as short as possible. Failure to do so could add months to the process and waiting period.