Form I-485 is the primary application used by immigrants adjusting status (applying for lawful permanent residence—a green card) in the United States. It collects basic information about the applicant's identity and checks for grounds of inadmissibility.
The information on this form all refers to the person who will get the green card, which we will assume is you, the reader. This form does not ask for any information about your petitioner or financial sponsor.
Form I-485 is available for free download on the Form I-485 page of the USCIS website. This article discusses the version of the form dated 03/29/21.
Note: Our instructions below cover only some of the complicated questions regarding how to fill out the form itself. For broader information on whether you are eligible for a green card and the various steps involved in the application process, see How to Get a Green Card.
You can fill in Form I-485 on your computer, and that's the best way to do it. If you need to fill it in by hand, print legibly and use black ink. Signatures must be by hand, in ink—do not type your name or use a stamp where it asks for a signature.
You might come across a question on the form that doesn't apply to you, or for which the answer is "none." For example, Part 1 asks for your middle name, and you might not have one. It's usually best to enter "N/A" or "None" in situations like these, otherwise USCIS might send the form back to you.
If you need extra space to completely answer a question, use Part 14, at the end of the form (which you can photocopy to make extra pages of, if needed). Take extra care to include your name, Alien Registration number (if you have one), and so on, in case this page gets separated from the rest of the form.
Here are tips on how to answer some of the less self-explanatory sections of this form.
Part 1. Information About You (Person applying for lawful permanent residence)
For Your Current Legal Name, use the name that appears on your passport, unless you have changed it since getting the passport. Also supply other names that might appear on any of your paperwork.
Under Other Information About You, you might or might not have a USCIS Online Account Number. You would have one only if you registered for this system in order to submit a previous application.
Give an address where USCIS can send mail to you. The "In Care Of" line is only for people who have asked others to receive mail for them—enter the name of the person who lives at the address if this is the case. Notice that there's an "Alternate and/or Safe Mailing Address" section option for people applying for a green card based on being in an abusive or dangerous situation.
Under Social Security Card, if you have a valid Social Security number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA), check enter the number here. If you don't yet have a number, filling in the rest of this section lets you apply for one; or for a replacement card (appropriate if the one you have shows limitations based on your nonimmigrant status).
Under Recent Immigration History, where it asks about Place of Last Arrival into the United States, USCIS is looking for the place where you spoke to the CBP officer. (This would be the first airport where you landed on your most recent arrival, if you came by plane.) If you can't remember, this information can be found by clicking the Get Travel History button on the I-94 website. Date of Last Arrival refers to your most recent U.S. entry from abroad. You might find that date stamped in your passport.
The form then asks a number of questions about your most recent U.S. entry. Part of the intention here is to make sure you entered legally; in most cases, someone who entered without permission is not eligible to use Adjustment of Status as a procedure by which to get a green card (and will instead have to do what's called "consular processing," at a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country).
You'll need to provide your Expiration date of authorized stay, that is, the date your status in the U.S. will expire. This is almost always different from the date your visa expires, so don't look at your visa for the answer to this question. You can find the date your status expires on your I-94: a form issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). If you came before April 30, 2013, you will probably find a white I-94 card stapled in your passport. If you came after April 30, 2013 by sea or by air, you were most likely not given an I-94 card. You'll have to get your I-94 number online at CBP's I-94 retrieval website. Have your passport number ready. Some people, mostly students and exchange program visitors, have no exact expiration date—they are here for the "duration of status," noted by "D/S" on the I-94. If this applies to you, enter "D/S" in the answer box.
Where it asks about your Status on Form I-94 when you last arrived, if you entered using a visa, the status is likely a combination of a letter and a number, such as F-1 (student), H-1B (if you're here as a temporary specialty worker, or B-2 (visitor for pleasure). Otherwise, or if you have no visa, describe your status with a term like "student," "visitor," "asylee," or "EWI" for "entered without inspection." (But again, if you entered EWI, it's doubtful you have a right to adjust status in the U.S.; see an attorney.) If you've changed your status since the last time you entered the U.S., enter the newer status you have now.
In the following question regarding current immigration status, you will want to repeat the same I-94 status code if its expiration date hasn't passed. Or, if that date has passed and you haven't obtained a new status, indicate that by entering "overstay" (in which case you might not be eligible to adjust status unless you are the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen; see a lawyer to be sure).
Here again, you might need to enter "EWI" if you crossed the border illegally but somehow became eligible to use the adjustment of status procedure (unlikely).
Part 2. Application Type or Filing Category
Put an "X" in the box that applies to you. For example, you would choose box 1.a if you are applying through family and are either an immediate relative or a preference relative with a current Priority Date and a right to use the adjustment of status procedure; box 1.b if an employer has petitioned for you; and so on.
With regard to Question 2, It's doubtful that you are applying based on the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.) Section 245(i); that's only for people to whom some very old laws apply, allowing them to pay a penalty fee in order to adjust status despite their illegal entry to the United States.
In the section called Information About Your Immigrant Category, the first thing you'll need to understand is the difference between a "principal" and "derivative" applicant. The principal is literally the main person mentioned on a visa petition. A derivative is someone who didn't need a separate visa petition, but who was named in, and is riding on, another person's petition (probably that of a parent or spouse).
The "underlying petition" asked about is your I-130, I-140, I-360, I-526, I-918, or other petition a sponsor filed for you. You're looking for the receipt number that USCIS put on its I-797 approval notice. But if you're filing your petition at the same time as the I-485 (a few categories of people, such as spouses of U.S. citizens who entered the U.S. lawfully, are allowed to do this concurrent filing), leave this blank.
In Question 4, your Priority Date (if you're not in a category where visas were immediately available, such as immediate relative) will be found on your USCIS approval notice, indicating the exact date when the petition was first filed on your behalf (or by you).
Part 3. Additional Information About You
Most of this part should be self-explanatory.
If you have applied for an immigrant visa (for permanent residency) at a U.S. consulate overseas any time in the past, check the "yes" box in Question 1. You'll then need to say where and when you applied, and what happened. The decision is either approved, denied, refused, or withdrawn (by you). There is no need to explain why this decision was made on this form.
Under Address History, this is meant to supply information for background checks. Fill it out as completely as you can, and go to Part 14 of the form to enter any addresses that won't fit here. The question about your "most recent address outside the United States" (Question 9) is meant to cover situations where someone has lived in the U.S. for a number of years. If that doesn't describe you, you might be entering an address that you've already entered above here; that's okay.
Your Employment History is also required for background check purposes. Enter "None" in the first box if you haven't been working.
Part 4. Information About Your Parents
This asks for basic biographical information; again, for background check purposes.
Part 5. Information About Your Marital History
You must explain whether you are currently single, married, divorced, and so on, and list information about your current spouse, if any. This information, and that under Information About Prior Marriages, is particularly important if you are immigrating to the U.S. based on marriage. USCIS wants to ascertain whether you are eligible or not (being married to two people at once is a legal problem).
Part 6. Information About Your Children
List all of your children (including adult children and stepchildren), even if they are not immigrating at this time. This is especially important if they might wish to immigrate later, because failure to mention them will create doubt as to whether they exist at all.
Part 7. Biographic Information
For purposes of confirming your identity, you must choose an ethnicity and race, and supply other physical information.
Part 8. General Eligibility and Inadmissibility Grounds
This section is long, and covers every possible way that you could be "inadmissible" to the United States (meaning that, despite meeting the basic visa requirements, you aren't eligible for U.S. entry at all, due to past crimes, immigration violations, serious health or financial trouble, and so on.
A big part of the purpose of this section is to weed out terrorists. If you have been connected to an organization that has a violent wing or advocates violence, even if you were only in its nonviolent subgroup, consult a lawyer. Incidentally, you can also improve the USCIS officer's opinion of you by listing organizations that you have volunteered with, such as religious organizations, to show that you are a moral person.
For Questions 14 to 60 in Part 8, your answers are hopefully "no." (Question 24 is an exception; it's meant for J-1 visa holders who are seeking a way around the usual requirement that they spend two years outside the U.S. before returning.)
You have to disclose all arrests, even if the arrest was a mistake and you were never charged with a crime. You can ignore tickets you got while driving except if drugs or alcohol was involved, or your fine was over $500. You will have to provide documentation showing what happened with every arrest, charge, conviction, or sentence.
With regard to Public Assistance, or questions 61 and 62, receipt of certain public benefits could be used as an indication that you are likely to become a "public charge," unless you're exempt from this ground of inadmissibility. (You'll find the exemptions at 8 C.F.R. § 212.23(a).) While receiving public assistance isn't illegal, it could be viewed as a sign that your income, assets, access to health insurance, and so on won't save you from relying on need-based government help. If there's any doubt about your financial resources, consult with an attorney before submitting this application.
The form then returns to various other grounds of inadmissibility for which your answer will in most cases hopefully be "no."
If the true answer to any of the questions regarding whether you are inadmissible is "yes," do not lie (which is not only unethical, but could, if discovered, destroy any hope you have of immigrating to the U.S.). Instead, see a lawyer for a full analysis of the situation.
Part 9. Accommodations for Individuals With Disabilities and/or Impairments
If you need special accommodations for your interview because of a disability or impairment—such as a sign language interpreter or to have a caregiver allowed to accompany you to your green card interview—explain what you need in this section.
Part 10: Applicant's Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, Certification, and Signature
This is where you, the applicant for the green card, sign. You'll also need to assure USCIS that you understand what you're signing and stand by the authenticity of the document copies you've submitted, and supply ways to reach you.
Part 11: Interpreter's Contact Information, Certification, and Signature
This is the place for your interpreter to provide contact information and sign, if you relied on an interpreter to answer the questions. If you don't speak English well or at all, it's best to get an interpreter (or a lawyer) to help you with the form and to sign.
You don't have to speak English to get your green card, but if you need an interpreter at your green card interview, the officer is probably not going to approve your I-485 application if you didn't have an interpreter sign it.
Part 12. Contact Information, Certification, and Signature of Person Preparing this Application, If Other Than the Applicant
If you filled out Form I-485 yourself, leave this part blank. Otherwise, this is where the lawyer or other person who filled out the form for you signs and provides his or her information.
Part 13. Signature at Interview
Leave this blank for now. You'll sign it when you meet with a USCIS officer for your green card interview.
Part 14. Use this if you need to add information to complete or expand on one of your previous answers.
If in doubt about whether you can safely answer any of the questions on this form, definitely consult an attorney.