When to File the I-485: Green Card Application Tips for Employers

Last Updated on March 2, 2023


Are you or your employee wondering when to file the I-485 as part of your green card application? Here is some direction to help you understand when you can file your I-485 and other steps you typically need to take beforehand.

Before you can file an I-485

Filing the I-485 Adjustment of Status is the last step in applying for a green card. The PERM process, when applicable in EB-2 or EB-3 cases, and the employer’s Form I-140, are steps that must be completed prior to the adjudication of the Adjustment of Status. PERM stands for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Program Electronic Review Management recruitment process which is required to obtain a Permanent Employment Certification from the DOL. An employer must obtain a Labor Certification prior to the submission of some EB-2 and EB-3 green card applications. The Form I-140 application requires information about the foreign worker, employer and job description and is submitted by the employer.

When to file the I-485: Once your priority date is current

When to file I-485: Once your priority date is current

The first step in determining when a green card will be available to a particular individual is identifying their case’s priority date. If you’re wondering when to file the I-485, the I-485 Adjustment of Status application may only be filed when the case’s priority date is “current.” The numerical limitations for EB immigrant visas, or employment-based green cards, creates long lines for individuals from certain countries. The priority date functions as the employee’s place in line.

Priority dates are issued monthly by the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin to establish when a foreign national may file their I-485 Adjustment of Status Application, and also provides rough time estimates for how long it will take individuals in certain green card categories to obtain a green card base on how many applications are currently being received and approved.

An employee’s priority date is found on the approval notice of the Employer’s I-140 Petition, which has the heading, “I-797, Notice of Action.”

Filing the I-485

Once the correct documentation is approved and/or pending and the priority date is current, filing Form I-485 is the final step. It’s an application to register permanent residence or adjust status. This is the employee’s notice to USCIS and the Federal government that the foreign national intends to and wants to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States and make the U.S. their permanent home.

What does the I-485 include?

when to file i-485 - What does the I-485 include?

Unlike the previous applications filed in this process which focus upon the job offered and the employer, this application focuses on the foreign national’s personal history and whether they as an individual independently qualify to become a U.S. permanent resident. The I-485 is the application that all foreigners inside the U.S. must file to become a permanent resident. This is true even within family-based immigration or asylum contexts.

Note: At this point in the green card application process, there is also the option of Consular Processing as opposed to filing Form I-485. But most employers and employees prefer to prevent interruptions in work by utilizing the Adjustment of Status, Form I-485 inside of the United States.

Learn all the ins and outs of the green card application process in our Comprehensive Guide to Employment-Based Green Cards.

Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an Envoy-retained attorney or another qualified professional.