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Adjusting to United States Permanent Resident - Form I-485 Application

1. Obtaining Green Card through Family-sponsored Immigration 

When a foreign national marries a U.S. citizen, he or she is considered as an immediate relative of the U.S. citizen. There are no numerical limitations to this family-based category, and the foreign national in the U.S. can file an immigrant application for permanent residence simultaneously with USCIS once the marriage has taken place. The applicant will be required to demonstrate to USCIS that the marriage was entered into good faith and not solely for the purpose of securing immigration benefits for the foreign national. 

A lawful permanent resident is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of permanently living and working in the United States. If a foreign spouse wants to become a lawful permanent resident based on the fact that he or she married a citizen of the United States, the USCIS will approve an immigrant visa petition, Form I-130 - Petition for Alien Relative. This petition is filed by the U.S. citizen spouse and must be accompanied by proof of the marriage relationship. 

The close family members of a U.S. citizen can qualify to immigrate to the United States, but they are subject to a numerical limit of immigrant visas available to them each year. Generally, the higher the preference, the quicker the alien will be eligible to receive a Green Card. The relatives in categories must wait for a visa to become available according to the following preferences:

  • First preference: Unmarried Children over 21 year of age of U.S. Citizens (23,400 per year, plus unused visas from the Fourth Preference);

  • Second Preference: Spouses and unmarried children (regardless of age) of U.S. permanent residents (114,000 per year, plus unused visas from the First Preference);

  • Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, including their spouses and their minor children. (23,400 per year, plus unused visas from the First and Second Preferences);

  • Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, including their spouses and their minor children. (65,000 per year, plus unused visas from the First, Second, and Third Preferences).

An immigrant visa must be immediately available to the alien at the time his or her I-485 application for status adjustment is filed. The Department of State's Visa Bulletin shows the priority date for each immigrant category. If an adjustment application is properly filed at the time that the individual's visa priority date is current but the priority subsequently retrogresses before the case is adjudicated, the adjustment cannot be completed.

2. The Availability of a Visa Number, and the Process for Adjusting Status

To adjust status in the United States or to get U.S. Green Card, an immigrant visa number must be readily available to the alien immigrant. Each year, a certain number of immigrant visas are available for alien immigrants. The available immigrant visa numbers and their current "priority dates" can be checked at the monthly Visa Bulletin issued by the U.S. Department of State.

The Priority Date is the date on which an immigrant visa petition is filed with the USCIS. Therefore, an alien immigrant can apply to adjust status only when his or her priority date is "current". The immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens are exempted from this requirement as they are not subject to the immigrant visa quota system. But other relatives of U.S. Citizens, such as U.S. citizen's married child or U.S. citizen's brother or sister, are subject to the immigrant visa quota system.

By filing USCIS form I-485 - Application to Register Permanent Residence of Adjust Status, an alien immigrant can adjust his or her status to a lawful permanent resident within the United States, if the alien immigrant can meets the requirements and is not subject to any ground of inadmissibility. Also, the alien immigrant needs to submit other mandatory governmental forms, relevant documents, and application fees to USCIS.

3. The Form I-485 Application - Adjustment of Status 

The Form I-485 application, adjustment of status, is conducted by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in the United States. An adjustment of status application is filed by a beneficiary of an approved immigrant visa petition. The adjustment applications are filed after the receipt of an immigrant visa approval notice from the USCIS. 

After your I-130 approval, the Form I-485 is used to apply for adjusting to a permanent resident. For I-485 application, you need to check if the visa number is available (or quota is current) for your category. Otherwise, you still need to wait for the visa number. You may apply to adjust your status if an immigrant visa number is immediately available to you, based on an approved I-130 Form.

Upon receipt of the I-485 adjustment approval notice, the adjustment applicant may obtain a stamp in his/her passport saying "Processed for I-551. Temporary evidence of lawful admission for permanent residence... employment authorized." This stamp indicates a permanent resident status and is the equivalent of a Green Card. The stamp is usually valid for one year and confers all the benefits of a permanent resident status, including the unlimited work authorization and the travel flexibility. During the validity of this stamp, the USCIS manufactures and mails a real "Green Card" to the beneficiary.

A U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident can be the sponsor of a family based immigration petition. However, the sponsor has to meet some requirements and legal obligations. The sponsor has to execute a legally binding affidavit of support for the beneficiary, in which the sponsor guarantees to maintain the standard of living of the intending immigrant at a level not lower than 125% of the national poverty level. This obligation continues until the beneficiary has become a U.S. citizen, or has worked in the United States for 40 qualifying quarters. 

4. Requirements for Adjustment of Status - Inspection and Admission or Parole to the U.S.

The U.S. immigration law requires that all aliens must present him/herself to an Immigration Officer for questioning at the time of entry into the United States, and this is called inspection. The admission into the U.S. only occurs after the Immigration Officer found the foreign individual to be admissible.

Generally, the proof of inspection and admission is the Form I-94 which is stamped by the Immigration Officer at the port of entry. A foreign individual not legally admitted and inspected cannot adjust his or her status by using the Form I-485 application inside the United States. The application of this immigration requirement is very strict, and some exceptions may include VAWA applicants, Asylees, and certain special immigrants.

5. The I-485 Application Process and Fees

The I-485 adjustment process involves the investigation of an individual's identity, health, criminal background, and the ability to support him or herself in the United States. The family-based adjustment applications are filed at a USCIS district office. The interviews are usually required at the discretion of the USCIS. The interviews will be required for adjustment applicants who have failed to maintain a legal nonimmigrant status. 

These is a Form I-485 filing fee for anyone 14 years of age or over. For applicants under the age 14, the fee is reduced. Except the spouses of U.S. citizens, any adjustment applicant who has failed to maintain a legal status may only adjust to the permanent resident by a payment of an additional penalty fee and if a permanent resident application was started before April 30, 2001. 

In addition to the filing fee for the I-1485 adjustment application, there is a fingerprinting fee (or biometrics services fee) charge for this procedure. The fingerprinting fee must be paid at the time of filing the I-485 adjustment application, before the completion of the fingerprinting.  

6. The Medical Examination for I-485 Application

A medical examination is a general requirement for an alien immigrant. The main purpose of the immigration medical examination is to make sure that the alien immigrant is admissible for not having a significant physical diseases or mental disorder of public health. For example, the tuberculosis can be a problem for immigration examination, which could be communicable or not be cured for a short time. The doctor may also ask you some questions, take a chest X-ray, and draw blood.

USCIS Form I-693 is also called Medical Examination of Aliens Seeking Adjustment of Status. It is used for aliens to have medical examination in U.S., in order to receive a U.S. green card or lawful permanent residence, through the procedure known as Adjustment of Status. The Adjustment of Status is a process to complete the entire green card application in the United States with the USCIS, including the possible interview. The Form I-693 must be completed by a USCIS designated doctor inside U.S.

The alien applicant needs to fill the Part I of the Form I-693. The alien applicant only needs to file simple information in Part I, such as name, gender, U.S. address, date of birth, place and country of birth, alien registration number (A number) and the Social Security Number (SSN) if you have one. An alien may have the A number, if he or she has applied for other immigration benefits previously.

  • There is a place for the alien applicant's signature at the bottom of Part 1. But you should not sign it before you see the USCIS designated doctor, and you should sign it only until the Doctor asks you to to so.
  • After the examination, the doctor should fill Form I-693 - Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, to document the results of your medical exam. The doctor should sign the Form I-693, and seal the form in an envelope. You must submit the sealed envelope to USCIS, together with your other I-485 application documents.
7. The Conditions that Would Make an Alien Applicant Inadmissible on Medical Ground

Many U.S. green card applicants need to have an immigration medical examination, and pay an exam fee to get immigration medical examination results. The immigration medical examination must be done when applying for an U.S. immigrant visa from overseas, or applying to adjust status inside the U.S. The purpose of the medical exam is to determine if an alien applicant has any health conditions that need attention prior to immigrating.

The following conditions would make an alien applicant inadmissible on medical reasons: 1) Alien applicants who are found to have a communicable disease of public health significance, including, chancroid; gonorrhea; granuloma inguinale; HIV/AIDS; infectious leprosy; lymphogranuloma venereum; infectious state syphilis; and infectious tuberculosis. 2) Immigrant visa and adjustment of applicants who have not received all of the required vaccinations. 3) Alien applicants who have current physical or mental disorders, with harmful behavior associated with that disorder, or past physical or mental disorders, with associated harmful behavior that is likely to recur or lead to other harmful behavior. 4) Alien applicants who are found to be drug abusers or drug addicts

There are other medical conditions, which can be categorized as Class B, and include physical or mental abnormalities, diseases, or serious/permanent disabilities. The waivers can be granted for Class B medical conditions. While it is natural to worry about the outcome of the exam, an alien applicant should be prepared to helping you relax.

There are a few exceptions, such as refugees and fiances adjusting status who are usually for situations where the person already had a medical exam overseas, as a condition of coming to the United States, and therefore does not need to repeat the exam for the next application. But the person might need to provide evidence of up-to-date vaccinations.

8. How to Find a Medical Doctor for the Form I-485 Medical Examination


When an alien immigrant applys for Green Card by using Form I-485 for adjustment of status, the alien applicant should have a medical examination. The medical examination can be done by a medical doctor who is authorized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The authorized medical doctors are called also civil surgeons.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has launched an improved online application, called "Find a Doctor" (https://my.uscis.gov/findadoctor), to assist applicants for U.S. permanent residence (Green Card) find doctors authorized to provide the medical examination required for Form I-485 applications for adjustment of status. The website also provides useful information regarding the medical examination process in the immigration context.

Many I-485 applicants need to undergo a medical exam performed by a USCIS authorized civil surgeon. Upon completion of the exam, the medical doctor will complete the report of medical examination and vaccination record (Form I-693), places it in a sealed envelope, and provides it to the alien applicant. This sealed envelope must accompany the Form I-485. The USCIS also now issues Requests For Evidence (RFEs) on long-pending I-485s to ask for updated medical examinations.

The "Find a Doctor" web tool provides the names and contact information for authorized civil surgeons in the area based on the address or zip code provided by the individual. It also lists what documents applicants should bring to their respective appointments and briefly explains the medical tests conducted during the exams.

9. How to Use the Dates of Filing Applications for Form I-485 Adjustment of Status

The procedures regarding immigrant visa availability have changed by U.S. Department of State, for the benefit of intending U.S. permanent resident (i.e., greencard) applicants. These changes are reflected in the Visa Bulletin which may be viewed at http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/law-and-policy/bulletin.html

The U.S. Department of State’s (DOS’s) monthly Visa Bulletin will now include two charts per visa preference category for Family-based and Employment-based applicants as "Application Final Action Dates", and "Dates for Filing Applications." In Sections 4.B. (Family-Sponsored Preference Cases) and 5.B. (Employment-Based Preference Cases), “Dates for Filing Applications” are listed.

The chart for "Dates for Filing Applications" reflects dates for filing visa applications within a timeframe justifying immediate action in the application process. Applicants for immigrant visas who have a priority date earlier than the cut-off date in the chart may assemble and submit required documents to the Department of State’s National Visa Center, following receipt of notification from the National Visa Center containing detailed instructions. The cut-off date for an oversubscribed category is the priority date of the first applicant who cannot submit documentation to the National Visa Center for an immigrant visa. If a category is designated “current,” all applicants in the relevant category may file applications, regardless of priority date

For many employment-based Green Card applicants' Adjustment of Status using USCIS Form I-485 inside United States, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will use the “Dates for Filing Applications” chart (in lieu of the “Application Final Action Dates” chart in paragraphs 4.A. and 5.A.) to determine when an application for adjustment of status (USCIS Form I-485) may be filed.  Adjustment applicants may also visit "www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo" for more information.

The statement in Visa Bulletin is consistent with USCIS’s announcement that each month it will “monitor the visa numbers and post the relevant DOS Visa Bulletin chart” on its website under “When to File”.  An intending greencard applicant can then use this information to determine when to file an adjustment application (Form I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status).  The “Dates for Filing Applications” chart may be used only when USCIS determines that additional immigrant visa numbers are available.  Otherwise, per USCIS guidance, the “Application Final Action Dates” chart must be used by intending Adjustment of Status applicants.

10. The Differences Between Sponsor, Joint Sponsor, and Substitute Sponsor for USCIS Form I-864 - Affidavit of Support

An affidavit of support, USCIS Form I-864, is a document an individual signs to accept financial responsibility for another person, usually a relative, who is coming to the United States to live permanently. The person who signs the affidavit of support becomes the sponsor of the relative coming to live in U.S.  The sponsor is usually the petitioner of an immigrant petition for a family member. An affidavit of support is legally enforceable; the sponsor's responsibility usually lasts until the family member or other individual either becomes a U.S. citizen, or can be credited with 40 quarters of work - usually 10 years.

A joint sponsor is someone who is willing to accept legal responsibility for supporting the family member with you. A joint sponsor must meet all the same requirements as you, except the joint sponsor does not need to be related to the immigrant. The joint sponsor, or the joint sponsor and his or her household, must reach the 125% income requirement alone. You cannot combine your income with that of a joint sponsor to meet the income requirement.

If the visa petitioner has died after approval of the visa petition but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decides to let the petition continue, a substitute sponsor must file a Form I-864 in place of the deceased visa petitioner.

Some other eligibility requirements apply to the substitute sponsor as well. He or she must be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident of at least 18 years of age who has a domicile in the U.S. And the sponsor must be a relative of yours. In order to be a substitute sponsor, you must be related to the intending immigrant in one of the following ways: Spouse; Parent; Mother-in-law; Father-in-law; Sibling; Child (if at least 18 years of age); Son; Daughter; Son-in-law; Daughter-in-law; Sister-in-law; Brother-in-law; Grandparent; Grandchild; Legal guardian of the beneficiary.

Serving as a substitute sponsor is a primarily financial relationship, and it involves filling out an Affidavit of Support on USCIS Form I-864. The Affidavit must indicate that the new sponsor is able to support the immigrants and his/her own household, at a level that is at or above 125% of the federal Poverty Guidelines. In fact, by filing Form I-864, the substitute sponsor promises the U.S. government to pay back any need-based public assistance that the named immigrants receive for approximately the first ten years of their having a green card.




 

 

 

 

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