Form I-485: your complete guide

Gabriela Peratello

Form I-485 — the Adjustment of Status form — is required as part of a Green Card application.

Green Card holders have the permanent right to reside in the US. And while holding permanent resident (PR) status isn’t the same as naturalizing as a US citizen, getting a Green Card is still an important step for anyone who wants to become a US citizen in future.

This comprehensive guide walks through all you need to know about Form I-485, to get you on the way to becoming a US Green Card holder. We’ll also briefly touch on how you can save money as an expat or new arrival in the US, with Wise.

📑 Table of Contents

What is the Form I-485?

Immigration Form I-485 is used to make an application to register permanent residence in the US, or to adjust your status from a different visa to permanent residence. It’s often known simply as the Adjustment of Status form.

In most cases, anyone who wishes to apply for a Green Card will have to follow several stages, and submit a variety of paperwork and supporting documents¹.

Form I-485 is usually submitted only after a relevant sponsor has filed a petition supporting your application for PR status. This document — known as an immigrant petition — can be one of several forms, depending on who your sponsor is. Common immigrant petition forms used include:

Once your immigrant petition has been approved by USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services), you’ll need to submit Form I-485.

What is the Form I-485 used for?

This is the form you’ll need if you want to get a Green Card on the basis of a family relationship to an existing US citizen or PR, because of a job offer, or due to your status as an asylee or refugee².

It’s worth noting that there are several different routes to becoming a Green Card holder so you’ll want to check out the full details about eligibility before you proceed with your application³.

Where can you file the Form I-485?

The process for filing Form I-485 will depend on whether you’re in the US or not. If you’re already in the US, you’ll need to file the paperwork with USCIS. If you’re elsewhere then you’ll use the consular processing route, and will need to apply via the US Embassy wherever you’re resident⁴.

From within the US (the Adjustment of Status route), you can find the direct filing addresses online⁵ The address varies depending on your application category and whether you’re mailing using USPS or another service. Following the consular route, you’ll need to find the nearest US embassy to your location and check their local address and processing arrangements.

Can you file Form I-485 online?

You can not submit this paperwork online. Before you complete the document — it’s a cool 18 pages long — check out the tips on the USCIS website for crucial information⁶. You’re advised to download the form, complete electronically and print if possible, before submitting in hard copy.

Can you file Form I-485 outside of the US?

From outside of the US you’ll file Form I-485 using the consular processing route. This means you need to get in touch with your local US embassy to get the details of where to send your paperwork.

Who can file Form I-485?

You can file Form I-485 if you’re eligible to apply for a Green Card. That will mean that you fall into one of the eligibility categories which are laid out on the USCIS website, and any necessary steps have been taken in advance. This may mean that a sponsor must file an immigrant petition — which must be approved — before you can file Form I-485.

If you would prefer, you can choose to file I-485 via an attorney or representative. In this case, you’ll bear any additional cost, and your representative will have to prepare additional paperwork to show the role they are playing in your application.

Who can’t file Form I-485?

Check out the eligibility criteria for Green Card applications on the USCIS website. It’s also important to note the order that application documents must be prepared in. Don’t send your I-485 too early if your category requires an approved immigrant petition prior to applying for a Green Card.

There are certain circumstances in which people are barred from filing to become permanent residents of the US — for example, if they have committed specific crimes. Make sure you fit all the eligibility criteria before you commence your application.

Fees for filing Form I-485

The costs for filing your I-485 depend on your age and application category. You can use the fee calculator on the USCIS website to check the price for your own application⁷.

Here’s a run down of the typical fee structure²:

Age/categoryForm feeBiometric feeTotal cost
Under 14, filing with a parent$750$0$750
Under 14, filing without either parent$1,140$0$1,140
Age 14 - 78$1,140$85$1,225
Age 79+$1,140$0$1,140
Filing as a refugee$0$0$0

Relocating to the US? Save by using Wise

Setting up life in another country can be expensive — not least because of excessive fees associated with sending and spending money in foreign currencies.

🌎When you’re making international payments, don’t get caught out by high conversion fees or sneaky hidden costs. Get Wise.

With the Wise multi-currency Account you can send, hold and manage money across multiple currencies, and switch between them using the real mid-market rate with no markup. That can mean you save 6x compared to using your regular bank account when you send money overseas, or spend using your card in a foreign currency.

See how much you can save with Wise, today

Timeline for the I-485 Form

Check the average processing time for Form I-485, on the USCIS website⁸. There’s a run down of current and historical case processing times by filing location, which can be helpful when planning.

It’s worth noting that getting your Green Card can take a long time. At the time of research, cases being processed in the California Service Centre are listed as taking anything from 16 to 65 months, while the Texas Service Centre has wait times of 13 to 36 months. The length of time it takes will depend on your personal situation and the category you’re applying under - wait times of 1 to 3 years are not uncommon.

Learn more: How long it takes to get a Green Card

Form I-485 checklist

There are helpful checklists available which summarise the common documents you’ll need to provide when you submit your I-485 paperwork⁹. The supporting materials required will vary according to the application type you’re making. For example, most applicants will need the following:

  • 2 passport photos
  • Government issued photo ID
  • Your birth certificate
  • Inspection and permission, or inspection and parole documents
  • Proof that your Form I-130 (or equivalent) has been submitted

If you’re applying as an immediate relative of a US citizen you may also need:

  • Affidavit of support
  • Police checks
  • Form I-601 or I-212 if you’ve ever been deported from the US or denied entry to the US
  • Other forms may apply under specific circumstances - check out the full details online

Or, if you’re applying on the basis of your employment you’ll need:

  • Evidence you’ve maintained a lawful status since arriving in the US
  • A job offer
  • Proof you intend to work in the field or activity listed in Form I-485
  • Affidavit of support
  • Police checks
  • Form I-601 or I-212 if you’ve ever been deported from the US or denied entry to the US
  • Other forms may apply under specific circumstances - check out the full details online

Form I-485 instructions

Here are some important tips when filling in your I-485¹⁰.

  • Download the form and complete electronically, or print and complete in black ink
  • Additional space is provided in Part 14 if you run out of room for your answer
  • Answer all questions
  • If a question doesn’t apply to you, answer N/A (not applicable), if it’s a numerical question, like ‘how many children do you have’, write NONE
  • If you have previously filed an online application, petition or query, you’ll have been given a USCIS Online Account Number — this is required as part of your I-485 filing
  • If you’re uncomfortable receiving mail about your application to your home address, you can give an alternative/safe address on the form
  • You’ll need your Form I-94 — arrival/departure record. If you can not find your form you can apply for a new one online at the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website
  • Biographic information should be entered according to the categories which best fit you — you’ll need to enter height in feet and inches, and your weight in pounds
  • If you needed the help of an interpreter to complete the form, you’ll be asked to confirm this
  • Keep a record of your application for yourself after submitting your original

Special instructions for the I-485 Form

It’s important to note that the paperwork required to support your application can vary according to your application category and personal situation. Read the USCIS website carefully to make sure you have everything you need, including the section on special instructions, which apply to only a few categories - but could be important to you.

One additional, useful, piece of information is that you can file your form for premium processing if you’re applying on the basis of your employment. In this case you may be able to submit the immigrant petition I-140 at the same time as your I-485. To do this, you’ll need to submit your paperwork at the USCIS Dallas Lockbox. Get full instructions online, to make sure your application follows the quickest processing route.


Frequent questions about the I-485

Completing immigration processes can be confusing. However, there’s lots of guidance online from the USCIS, as well as advice from professionals experienced in supporting expats applying for PR status. To get you started we’ve rounded up — and answered — a few common questions about Form I-485.

Is I-485 Form the same as Green Card?

Completing the I-485 form is one step on the way towards applying for your Green Card. There are also formalities that must be completed before and after this form is filed, to be granted PR status.

What’s the difference between Form I-130 and I-485?

The I-130 form is known as an immigrant petition. This document is submitted by your sponsor in advance of filing for permanent residence status, if you’re applying for a Green Card on the basis of family relationship.

Can they be filed together?

Filing both the immigrant petition and the Form I-485 at the same time is known as concurrent filing¹¹. This is not available to all applicants, but you may be able to file both documents at the same time if you’re applying as an immediate family member of a US citizen, on the basis of your employment, or if you fall into other special categories as a juvenile or victim of abuse for example.

What happens after form I-485 is filed?

Once your paperwork is submitted you can check on the status of your case online or by calling the USCIS contact centre. If you move house you must inform USCIS of your new address within 10 days, to receive notifications about your case¹².

If you’ve applied for your Green Card in the US, you’ll get written notification of the outcome. If you’re not in the US at the time of applying, your local Embassy or Consular service will inform you of the timescales and next steps when you file your application.

Once you have your Green Card you’ll be able to update and apply for other documents such as your Social Security card and driving license. Don’t forget you’ll also need to renew your Green Card when the time comes.

What if it’s denied?

If your Green Card application is denied you will be informed of your rights - as well as the reason for the unfavorable decision. You may be able to appeal the decision or file a motion to reopen or reconsider your case. However, this option is not available in all circumstances¹³.

Can I work or travel while Form I-485 is pending?

Whether or not you can work will depend on the visa which you are on at the time of application for a Green Card. When it comes to travel, you’ll need to seek advance permission to leave the US or risk your Green Card application being treated as abandoned. Full details of the process you need to follow are available online on the USCIS website.

If you’re a long term expat in the US, or planning on moving there for work or to join family, getting a Green Card could be a smart move. Form I-485 is one important step on the route to getting your permanent residency in the US, and being able to settle for the long term without needing to extend or renew your visas.

The road to becoming a permanent resident of the US is a long one for many applicants — and there are several steps and a lot of paperwork you’ll have to take care of. However, there is also plenty of help out there, from the USCIS and other sources. Use this guide to get started — and while you’re planning your application, use Wise to cut the costs of your daily life as an expat. Save money, and have one less thing to worry about.

🚀Get started


  1. USCIS - How to apply for a Green Card
  2. USCIS - I-485
  3. USCIS - Green Card eligibility categories
  4. USCIS - Consular processing
  5. USCIS - Direct filing addresses for Form I-485 application
  6. USCIS - Form filing tips
  7. USCIS - Fee calculator
  8. USCIS - Processing times
  9. USCIS - I-485 checklist
  10. USCIS - I-485 instructions
  11. USCIS - Concurrent filing of Form I-485
  12. USCIS - While your Green Card application is pending
  13. USCIS - After receiving a decision

Sources checked on 06.17.2021

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

Money without borders

Find out more

Tips, news and updates for your location