Adjustment of Status

Important note: The I-485 application, which includes additional forms, is an employee’s personal application. Since it is the worker’s responsibility, an immigration lawyer may be hired to prepare it. Due to restrictions on the practice of law, FSIS cannot provide assistance with this application.

Step 1: Confirm eligibility to file an I-485 application
Step 2: Prepare & submit the I-485 application
Step 3: Meet work authorization & travel requirements
Step 4: USCIS processing
Step 5: Maintain U.S. permanent residence


Step 1: Confirm eligibility to file an I-485 application

An employee may apply for U.S. permanent residence by filing a Form I-485 application for adjustment of status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) if these initial requirements are met:

  • An I-140 petition has been filed or approved on the worker’s behalf;
  • The worker holds a valid, qualifying nonimmigrant status in the U.S. (e.g. H-1B); and
  • The priority date is current according to USCIS’s chart (see below for more information).

Dependents

If an employee has dependents in the U.S. who intend to apply for U.S. permanent residence, they may file their own I-485 applications as derivative beneficiaries of the I-140 petition. Spouses and minor, unmarried children under age 21 may file I-485 applications as derivative beneficiaries.

Priority date

The employee’s priority date must be current before an I-485 application may be submitted to USCIS. To determine the status of the priority date, the worker will need the following information:

  • Worker’s or spouse’s country of birth; and
  • The employment-based immigrant preference category in which the I-140 petition was filed.
    • For EB-1: Priority date is the filing date of the I-140 petition (see I-140 receipt or approval notice).
    • For EB-2 or EB-3 with labor certification: Priority date is the filing date of the labor certification application (see labor certification approval letter).

After gathering the above information, the employee should review USCIS’s employment-based (EB) adjustment of status filing chart, which is updated on a monthly basis. On the chart, find the field where the applicable country of birth and EB category intersect. If there is a letter “C” or a date that is more recent than the priority date entered in that field, the worker may file the I-485 application during the given month. However, if there is a letter “U” or a date that precedes the priority date, the I-485 application cannot be filed yet. A letter “U” or a date that precedes the priority date on the chart indicates that immigrant visas are not yet available, so the worker will need to continue to check the chart each month until the priority date becomes current.

Note that if the employee’s priority date is backlogged for their country of birth, but in the same month, it is current for their spouse’s country of birth, they may file their I-485 applications during that month based on the spouse’s country of birth. This is known as “cross-charging” an immigrant visa to the spouse’s country of birth.

Concurrent filing of I-485 with I-140

If the worker’s priority date is current at the time an I-140 immigrant petition will be filed, they may choose to file their (and any dependent family member’s) I-485 application(s) while the I-140 petition is still pending by attaching a copy of the I-140 receipt notice to each I-485 application.

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Step 2: Prepare & submit the I-485 application

If the employee retains an immigration lawyer to assist with the I-485 application, they should exclusively consult with the lawyer on the next steps in the process.

An employee who decides to file an adjustment of status application without a lawyer’s assistance can access Form I-485 and the I-485 instructions from USCIS’s website. The worker should carefully review the I-485 instructions to ensure they include all necessary items with the I-485. Listed below are some, but not all, of the supporting documents that must be submitted with Form I-485:

  • Two passport-style photos;
  • Copy of visa page in passport;
  • Birth certificate
  • Form I-693 medical exam form completed by a USCIS-approved civil surgeon;
  • Form I-485 Supplement J (please contact FSIS to prepare form)
  • Copy of I-140 receipt or approval notice;
  • Any other required documents listed on the I-485 instructions; and
  • Filing fee in the exact amount.

Simplified tables showing the USCIS filing fees and mailing addresses are posted on our website, but the employee should double check the I-485 instructions to ensure the correct fee and proper mailing address.

The employee and any dependents who are filing I-485 applications may also choose to file an I-765 application for unrestricted work authorization and an I-131 application for advance parole (travel permission) with or after the I-485 application — see Step 3 below for more information.

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Step 3: Meet work authorization & travel requirements

H-1B employees have more flexibility in terms of continuing work authorization and international travel options while the I-485 is pending, so it is not necessarily the case that an H-1B employee must file an I-765 application for work authorization or an I-131 application for advance parole. However, it is recommended that employees who are in the U.S. in other nonimmigrant statuses, such as O-1 or E-3, file I-765 and I-131 applications with their I-485s.

Work authorization

Employees and dependents have the following options to maintain work authorization in the U.S. while their I-485 applications are pending:

H-1B authorization Employment authorization document (EAD)
An H-1B employee may continue to work under H-1B authorization while the I-485 is pending. H-1B workers and their H-4 dependents can also extend their H statuses. The maximum limit on H-1B status is generally six years, but H-1B extensions beyond six years are possible:

  • In one-year increments if at least 365 days will have passed since a permanent labor certification application or an I-140 petition has been filed on their behalf on the start date of the H-1B extension petition; or
  • In up to three-year increments if the employee is the beneficiary of an approved I-140 petition and is not yet able to file an I-485 because the priority date is not current.

H-1B authorization is restricted to the specific UH position for which the H-1B petition was filed. If an H-1B employee is offered additional employment by another U.S. employer, the employee may not work for that employer unless a petition for concurrent H-1B employment is filed on the employee’s behalf.

If the I-485 is denied, an employee who maintained H-1B status can continue working under the H-1B authorization as long as it remains valid.

An employee or dependent family member can apply for unrestricted work authorization by filing a Form I-765 application for employment authorization with or after the filing of an I-485 application. Unlike H-1B approval, the EAD can be used to work for UH and other employers and can be extended as long as the I-485 is still pending.

It is important to note that an H-1B worker who uses an EAD to work for a non-UH employer or an H-4 dependent who uses an EAD to work at all will automatically fall out of H status. However, the person can stay in the U.S. as an adjustment applicant while the I-485 is pending and continue working as long as the EAD remains valid.

If an I-485 applicant decides to work using an EAD rather than maintain H status, they should also apply for advance parole (see “international travel and readmission to the U.S.” below) in case a trip abroad becomes necessary.

If an employee or dependent has not maintained H status and the I-485 is denied, they will no longer be in lawful status and may be subject to removal from the U.S.

International travel & readmission to the U.S.

Employees and dependents have the following options for international travel and U.S. reentry while their I-485 applications are pending:

H-1B/H-4 travel Advance parole
Individuals who have been maintaining H-1B or H-4 status may continue to travel abroad and reenter the U.S. in H status if:

  • Upon returning to the U.S., they remain eligible for H status;
  • The H-1B worker is returning to resume employment with the same H-1B employer;
  • The person has a valid H visa and valid H-1B approval notice; and
  • The person has all other required items for reentry in H status.

If the above conditions are met, an H-1B/H-4 traveler does not need to obtain advance parole (see column to the right) before departing and to reenter the U.S.

Individuals who are not maintaining H-1B/H-4 status (including those who are holding other types of nonimmigrant status, such as O-1, E-3, etc.) must receive USCIS approval of a Form I-131 application for advance parole before they leave the U.S. If an I-485 applicant leaves the U.S. without first receiving advance parole, the I-131 application will be automatically canceled. It will also be difficult for the person to reenter the U.S. without advance parole.

USCIS can take 3-4 months to approve I-131 applications. It is therefore best to plan ahead for any situations that might require the individual to travel on short notice.

After reentering the U.S. using advance parole, H-1B workers who were maintaining H-1B status before departure may resume working under H-1B authorization. However, if the H-1B authorization has lapsed or if H-1B status was not being maintained prior to departure, the worker must have a valid EAD (see “work authorization” above) to resume working in the U.S.

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Step 4: USCIS processing

After USCIS receives the I-485 application, the adjudicator will review it, schedule a fingerprinting appointment at the Application Support Center, conduct background checks, schedule an interview to discuss the application with each applicant in-person, and render a decision. If the employee is planning to travel abroad after filing the I-485, they should have someone check their mail in case USCIS schedules the fingerprinting or interview appointment at the time of the trip. The employee can request that USCIS reschedule the appointment. USCIS may also send the applicant a request for further evidence and set a deadline to respond. If the deadline passes and the applicant does not respond, USCIS will most likely deny the application.

If the application is approved, USCIS will send the employee and any family members who also filed I-485s their “Welcome Notices.” Each applicant’s Permanent Resident Card (“green card”) will follow in the mail.

Temporary evidence of permanent residence

After an employee or family member receives an I-485 welcome notice, but before receiving the Permanent Resident Card, an I-551 stamp as temporary evidence of permanent residence for work authorization and travel purposes can be obtained. To obtain the I-551 stamp, make an appointment with the USCIS Honolulu Field Office using InfoPass.

Update UH records

After an employee receives the Permanent Resident Card, send a copy of the card to FSIS so we can close the UH immigration file. The worker should also notify the HR specialist for the college/school/unit so the HR record can be updated.

FSIS does not keep immigration files indefinitely, so employees should keep their own copies of their immigration documents.

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Step 5: Maintaining U.S. permanent residence

U.S. permanent residents share most of the same basic rights as U.S. citizens with a few exceptions, such as the right to vote and the right to run for government office. Additionally, permanent residence can be abandoned by not maintaining strong enough ties to the U.S. A permanent resident who is:

  • Outside the U.S. for less than six months can reenter the U.S. by presenting the Permanent Resident Card.
  • Outside the U.S. for more than six months but less than 1 year may reenter the U.S. by presenting the Permanent Resident Card and evidence of maintenance of continuous ties to a residence in the U.S., such as an employment letter certifying continuing employment, proof of a U.S. address, U.S. tax returns, U.S. bank/credit card accounts, U.S. driver’s license, etc.
  • Outside the U.S. for more than one year must receive a reentry permit by filing Form I-131 with USCIS before departing the U.S. If the person left the U.S. without obtaining a reentry permit, the absence may be deemed an abandonment of permanent residence.

For more information, see the “How Do I” Guides for permanent residents on USCIS’s website.

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