These are the basic steps required by the US Citizen and/or non US Citizen Spouse. These steps should be followed as a guideline and not as specific requirements for any given case. Every case is unique and this does not address that uniqueness.
filing for Adjustment of Status K1 and K3 Visa holders are now required
to submit their paperwork to the National Address (Chicago Lockbox) instead
of at their local CIS office. This procedure became effective for all
applicants in April 2005.
After the National office completes initial processing your case will be referred to your local CIS office where you will be interviewed for your permanent residency or be transferred to CSC. Prior to this the national office will send you communications requesting biometrics be taken and schedule an interview with you for this. To determine the amount of time it will take your local office to schedule your interview appointment refer to Processing Times page and click on USCIS District Processing Times link
Download the Following Forms:
4. I-765 (optional)
5. I-131 (optional)
6. G-1145 (optional)
The above forms can be filled out on your computer and printed. Make sure you sign and date them as required. Anything you cannot fit by typing, you can handwrite (very neatly) in black ink in the blank instead. You should always verify the current forms at www.uscis.gov.
Assembling the I-485 Package: Checklist
Forms and Documents (follow these assembly instructions. All supporting documents must be in English or be translated as noted here.):
"Cover Page" Information:
In the checklist above it is recommended that you include a Cover Page with your application. While this is optional, filing a cover page will help the USCIS understand what benefit your are applying for and specifically what items you have included in your package. Again, make sure the cover page includes:
-- the applicants contact information (name, address, phone number)
-- A description of the benefit you are applying for, (Immediate Relative (Spouse) Family Based Adjustment of Status Application)
-- A table of contents listing the major items in your package (i.e. I-485 and evidence, I-765, I-131, etc)
-- A line with the applicants signature and date
Attach "E-Notification" Form (Optional)
Clip a completed G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, to the first page of your application (on top of the cover page). By completing this form and attaching it, USCIS will send you an email and/or text message to alert you when your application was received.
Where to File Everything:
Applicants are required to mail applications to a national mailbox (Chicago) as stated on the form (not your local USCIS office). Be sure to mail the package with return receipt requested / delivery confirmation. Send via USPS.
Make TWO copies of the entire package before you send it in. This includes the money orders too. You want to have a perfect replica of the package you are sending in. All Forms that you submit must be originals with original signatures. Supporting Evidence that you submit may be photocopies. Retain ALL original supporting Evidence since the USCIS has the right to check them by issuing an RFE (Request For Evidence). If you receive an RFE, follow the direction exactly, and make two copies of what you sent back. During any future interviews the USCIS may also want to examine the original supporting evidence.
After Filing: What Happens?
I-485's can take anywhere from several months to several years to be approved depending on where you live (every local office has a different waiting period). This delay often leaves the petitioner feeling completely hopeless of ever receiving approval. DO NOT GIVE UP! Though it seems like forever, the CIS will eventually get to your petition. In the mean time make sure your EAD for working is valid (renew when needed) and that you have an AP for any neccesary travel you have planned. Listed below are the main items that will happen while the beneficiary's I-485 is being processed.
Employment Authorization and Advance Parole Processing
If you filed for Employment Authorization and/or Advance Parole petitions are generally processed within 90 days of filing. During that wait the beneficiary (non-US Citizen Spouse) will be sent a notice in the mail to schedule an appointment at the nearest USCIS biometrics office to have their fingerprints and photos taken. It is important follow the instructions in this notice and to schedule the biometrics appointment in a timely fashion. Below are estimated waiting times for these benefits:
Estimated EAD Processing Times
Estimated AP Processing Times
As a note, in an emergency where travel outside of the United States is needed (while a beneficiary's I-485 in still being processed) an Advance Parole can be obtained quickly by scheduling an Info-Pass appointment at your local USCIS office. You must show proof (doctors note, etc) that the travel is a true emergency (such as to see a critically ill relative or other true emergency) and file an I-131 (AP) in person. If approved the AP is likely be issued the same day. Do not attempt to leave the country without an AP as this can result in the beneficiary's I-485 being considered "abandoned" and will require a new Visa to enter the US (and refiling of the I-485).
Your beneficiary (non-US Citizen Spouse) will be required to have their biometrics taken as part of the I-485 processing (fingerprints and photos). The beneficiary will be sent a notice in the mail to schedule an appointment at the nearest USCIS biometrics office to have their fingerprints and photos taken. It is important follow the instructions in this notice and to schedule the biometrics appointment in a timely fashion. This can typically precede the interview date by up to 15 months, however it is usually much closer.
Interview (in person) for Adjustment of Status
Eventually most people (see exception below) will receive a letter from the CIS informing you of your interview date. It will include instructions on what to bring to the interview and any required items you may need to complete before hand. One of the most critical items requested will be "evidence of the relationship" which proves that your marriage is true and faithful (i.e. photos, joint checking account, joint lease, joint mortgage, and birth certificates of children if any, etc.). Also, it is important to bring the current passport of the beneficiary to the interview. The interview is fairly painless and may be video recorded and lasts between 15-30 minutes. If approved you will be mailed your "green-card" shortly after the interview date (weeks).
Interview Exception. In some cases a beneficiary's Adjustment of Status case may be transfered to the California Service Center (possibly another location) where the CIS will attempt to complete processing without requirinig an "in person" interview. There is no particular way to know if this will happen to your case however if this does happen then you will not be required to attend an interview in person. If the I-485 is approved the beneficiary's green card will simply be mailed to them.
(1) It is possible that at your interview a tardy namecheck or FBI clearance may hold up a final "approval" of the I-485 after the interview. Permanent Resident status does not start until the case is *actually* approved, which may be a later date than the interview. The final issued green card will show the validity date.
(2) If the beneficiary and petitioner have been married less than two years at the time the I-485 is approved then the beneficiary will receive what is called a "conditional" legal permanent residence. This simply means that the beneficiary will have to renew his/her greencard 2 years from the date it was originally "issued" by filing an I-751 to remove conditional status. When filing this form you will need to again show proof of your valid and ongoing marriage.