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What Is Form I-485? Processing Time & Factors That Can Cause Delay (2024)

If you are starting your journey of becoming a lawful permanent resident in the United States, you might know that Form I-485, also known as Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is a crucial step in the immigration process.

I-485 processing time can vary depending on the type of application and several other factors.

In this blog, we’ll share all you need to know about Form I-485, including its purpose and eligibility, and shed light on the factors that influence processing time and how long you might for approval.

We’ll also explain how our legal team at Spar & Bernstein can guide and support you throughout the I-485 application process and every additional step towards obtaining your Green Card.

Looking for an immigration lawyer?

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Bradford H. Bernstein

This article was written and reviewed by Bradford H. Bernstein, a second-generation leader at Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein, P.C., who has helped over 100,000 clients with immigration and personal injury issues. Brad joined the firm in 1993, became a partner in 1997, and assumed leadership in 2000 after Harry Spar retired.

View Brad's Bio

What Is Form I-485? 

Form I-485 is a document used by eligible individuals in the U.S. to request a change in their immigration status, from a nonimmigrant visa holder to a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder). This process is known as adjustment of status. 

I-485 is filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and is an important step in the process of obtaining a Green Card, allowing visa holders to live and work permanently in the U.S.

Note that currently, USCIS accepts both 02/21/23 and 12/23/22 editions of Form I-485. The edition date can be found at the bottom of the form and instructions page. If you use earlier editions, your application will be rejected.

Who Can File I-485? 

Those who are eligible to file Form I-485 include visa holders in the:

  • Family-based immigration category: Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (spouses, parents and unmarried children under 21) and certain relatives in preference categories (such as unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens, spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents.)
  • Employment-based immigration category: Individuals with an approved immigrant petition based on employment — for example, foreign workers with job offers in the U.S. under EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 employment-based categories.
  • Refugee or Asylee status category: Refugees and asylees who have been granted protection in the U.S. after meeting certain requirements.
  • Human trafficking victim category: Individuals who have experienced human trafficking in the U.S. and meet the designated eligibility criteria for this immigration status.
  • Crime victim category: Individuals who were victims of criminal activities in the U.S. and meet the eligibility criteria.

Eligibility requirements can vary per category, and you may need to meet additional criteria. That is why it is important to review the USCIS guidelines and speak to an experienced immigration attorney who will determine your eligibility and the criteria you must meet to get your application approved.

A happy Hispanic family with kids sitting on the grass
I-485 can be filed for family-based and employment-based Green Card applications, along with refugee and asylum applications

I-485 Processing Time 

The processing time of Form I-485 may vary depending on the type of application and the field office or service center where you submitted your application.

I-485 Processing Time For Family Applications

The average I-485 processing time for family forms in 2024 is between 10 and 25 months.

I-485 Processing Time For Employment Applications

The average I-485 processing time for employment applications in 2024 is between 10 and 49 months.

I-485 Processing Time For Refugee & Asylee Applications

The average I-485 processing time for refugees who were granted admission more than one year before their application submission is approximately 31 months.

The average I-485 processing time for asylees that were granted asylum more than one year before their application submission is approximately 32 months.

I-485 Processing Time For Trafficking Victim Applications

The average I-485 processing time for victims of trafficking is approximately 34.5 months.

I-485 Processing Time For Crime Victim Applications

The average I-485 processing time for victims of crimes is between 22 and 28 months.

The time estimates on the USCIS website are calculated based on the time it takes to process 80% of applications over the previous 180 days.

Note that you should accept these quoted processing times as a reference point only — your approval could come sooner or your application could take longer to process.

To check how long a specific USCIS office typically takes to process Form I-485, visit the Processing Time page on the USCIS website.

To receive update on your case status:

  • Visit the Case Status page and enter your Form I-485 receipt number
  • If you believe that your application is taking longer than usual to process, submit a case enquiry
  • Contact the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283
  • Partner with an experienced immigration law firm like Spar & Bernstein, in which case an attorney can determine the status of your case

What Can Cause Delays In I-485 Processing? 

There are several different factors that can lead to delays in processing Form I-485 applications, including:

  • USCIS workload: When USCIS faces high volumes of applications and limited resources over certain periods of time, this can lead to backlogs.
  • Request for Evidence (RFE): If USCIS determines that they need additional documentation or information to evaluate your application, they may issue an RFE. If you fail to respond to their request for evidence in a timely manner, the processing of your application can be delayed.
  • Background checks: To ensure applicants meet the admissibility requirements, USCIS conducts background checks. A delay in receiving background check information may lead to the prolonged processing time of your application.
  • Incomplete or inaccurate applications: Errors, missing information or incomplete forms can result in delays, as USCIS may request clarification or additional documentation.
  • Administrative processing: In certain cases, additional administrative processing may be required to review an application thoroughly —for example, when there are security concerns or fraud detection. This administrative processing can lead to delays in processing time.

While some of the above factors are beyond your control, you can take measures to make sure that your application is accurately completed and filed. Our experienced team at Spar & Bernstein will help you file Form I-485 and make sure you submit all documentation to avoid delays.

A lawyer and a client 
The knowledgeable immigration attorneys at Spar & Bernstein will ensure your application is accurately completed and filed to avoid the risk of delayed processing

What Happens After You File Form I-485? 

Although the specific steps and timeline can vary depending on your individual circumstances and USCIS processing times, here is what typically happens once you have filed Form I-485.

1. You Get A Receipt Notice  

Once you file Form I-485, USCIS sends a receipt notice (Form I-797C) to acknowledge that they received your application. This notice contains a receipt number that you can use later to track the progress of your application on the USCIS website.

2. You Attend A Biometrics Appointment 

USCIS schedules a biometrics appointment where you provide your fingerprints, photograph and signature. USCIS then uses this data to conduct identity verification and background checks.

3. You Receive A Request For Evidence (RFE) 

If USCIS requires additional information or documentation to support your I-485 application, they issue a Request for Evidence (RFE). You must provide the requested evidence within the timeframe specified in the RFE.

4. You Receive An Interview Notice 

Depending on your immigration category and other factors, USCIS may schedule an interview to further evaluate your eligibility for an adjustment of status. The interview notice includes the interview date, time and location.

5. You Attend The Interview 

At the interview, a USCIS officer asks questions about your application, supporting documents and eligibility. The officer may also review your personal history and ask about your relationship, if your application is family-based, or about your employment, if your application is employment-based.

6. USCIS Makes A Decision 

After the interview, the USCIS decides on your I-485 application. The USCIS may approve your application, request additional evidence or documentation, or deny your application.

If your I-485 application is approved, you will receive a Notice of Approval (Form I-797) informing you that your adjustment of status is approved.

7. You Get Your Green Card  

If your I-485 application is approved, the USCIS mails your Green Card at the address you listed on your application, and your status is changed to a Green Card holder.

Need help with your Green Card application?

Work with our immigration attorneys!

How Spar & Bernstein Can Help You Adjust Your Status 

Dedicated to providing support to immigrants who are navigating the complex process of obtaining a Green Card through Form I-485, our experienced attorneys at Spar & Bernstein are here to help.

From evaluating your eligibility and preparing all documentation to ensuring that your application is set up for approval, we will help you submit Form I-485 and handle your case with knowledge and compassion.

We can help throughout the entire Green Card process by representing you in your interactions with USCIS, preparing you for your interview and exploring legal options if challenges or complications arise.

Founded in 1958 to serve in immigration and personal injury law, Spar & Bernstein has a proven track record of successful outcomes in family immigration, asylum and refugee protection, employment immigration, waivers and more. 

Schedule a consultation with our team and find out how we can help.

Work with our immigration team to get your Green Card.

Contact Spar & Bernstein

FAQs About Form I-485 

Still have questions about Form I-485? Find answers to frequently asked questions below. 

1. Can I work while my I-485 application is pending? 

Yes — if you request an employment authorization document you can work while Form I-485 is pending approval. 

To do this, file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. You can file the form simultaneously with I-485 or after, while Form I-485 is still pending. 

2. Can I travel internationally while my I-485 application is pending a decision? 

If you have a pending I-485 application and you plan to travel, you need to obtain an Advance Parole document (Form I-131) before leaving the U.S. Without this document, departing the U.S. can be considered as abandoning your application. You can file the Form I-131 simultaneously with I-485 or after, while Form I-485 is still pending.

3. Can I file Form I-485 concurrently with other applications or petitions? 

In some cases, you will be able to file Form I-485 concurrently with other related applications or petitions — like Form I-130 or I-140, for example.

Speak to our experienced immigration attorneys at Spar & Bernstein to determine whether you can file forms concurrently.

4. Can I expedite the processing of my I-485 application?  

Expedited processing may be available in certain cases, such as emergency situations or severe financial loss.

To request expedited processing, contact USCIS and provide supporting evidence of an emergency situation or contact our team at Spar & Bernstein to determine your eligibility for expedited processing.

5. What happens if I move to a new address while my I-485 application is pending?

If you move to a new address, while your I-485 application is pending, it is crucial to inform USCIS of the change. To do that, use Form AR-11, Alien’s Change Of Address Card. Updating your information will make sure you receive any important notifications related to your application.

6. What happens if my I-485 application is taking longer than the average processing time?

If your application is significantly delayed, send USCIS an inquiry about your application status. To do this, you will need your receipt number, the date when you filed your application and your email address.

7. How often does USCIS update the processing time information for I-485 applications?

USCIS updates the processing time for information for I-485 applications on its website every few weeks.

8. Can an immigration attorney expedite my I-485 processing time?

While hiring an immigration attorney does not directly impact USCIS processing times, they will make sure your application is prepared correctly to avoid additional delays.

9. What’s the difference between adjustment of status and consular processing?

The key difference between adjustment of status and consular processing is the location of the applicant when the Green Card application is filed.

If the applicant is in the U.S., they can file an adjustment of status application. Adjustment of status also allows the applicant to apply for work and travel authorization.

If the applicant is outside the U.S., they need to go through consular processing to apply for a Green Card. When going through consular processing, the applicant is not allowed to request work or travel authorization.

Looking for an immigration lawyer?

Contact our immigration team!