Step 2: Waiting Period and Applying for the Green Card (Adjustment of Status)
If the spouse seeking a green card is present in the United States, the next step is to file Form I-485 (technically called the application for “Adjustment of Status”). The I-485 application is filed with USCIS and its primary purpose is to establish that the spouse is eligible for a green card.
For spouses of U.S. green card holders (permanent residents), the I-485 filing package cannot be submitted until the U.S. State Department determines that a green card is available given various annual caps. The dates published in the State Department’s monthly visa bulletin will determine whether an I-485 package can be filed or not. For more information on how to keep track of the visa bulletin, check out our guide on “How to Read the Visa Bulletin.”
The wait time is currently about a year and a half, but this can vary by a few months depending on the spouse’s home country.
In order for the spouse seeking a green card to remain in the United States while waiting for a green card to become available, he or she must maintain continuous lawful immigration status.
This means that the spouse seeking a green card should be in valid “nonimmigrant status” (for example, having a valid student visa or temporary work visa) for the entire time that he or she is waiting for a green card to become available. Unlike spouses of U.S. citizens who may still file a green card application even if their immigration status lapses, spouses of U.S. green card holders may not file green card applications if they have such a lapse.
Once the I-485 filing package is submitted, USCIS typically processes it within 8-10 months.
Forms and fees
Critical elements of the green card application package include these USCIS forms and fees:
- Green card application form (I-485): $1,140
- Biographic information form (G-325A): $0
- Financial support form (I-864): $0
- Biometrics (fingerprints and photo): $85
These forms are optional, in case the spouse seeking a green card wants to work or travel:
- Work permit application form (I-765): $0
- Travel permit application form (I-131): $0
The total government filing fees for this step are $1,225.
Documents for the I-485 form
The main purpose of the green card application form (or I-485) is to establish that the spouse is eligible for U.S. permanent residency. USCIS requires the following documents:
- Proof of I-130 approval (copy of the I-130 approval notice)
- Proof of the foreign spouse's nationality (copy of a birth certificate and foreign passport)
- Proof that the spouse entered the United States using a valid visa, demonstrated by a copy of this prior visa and the I-94 travel record (available here)
- Proof that the spouse seeking a green card has maintained continuous lawful immigration status (copies of all I-94s for the time that the spouse seeking a green card was present in the United States while awaiting green card availability)
- Proof of the sponsoring spouse’s ability to financially support the spouse seeking a green card (copy of the sponsoring spouse’s latest federal income tax returns and pay stubs)—for more details, see our explanation of the “Affidavit of Support.”
- Updated documents to prove that the marriage is not fraudulent (for example, a recent joint lease, recent joint bank account statements, and recent pictures together)
- If the spouse seeking a green card has ever been arrested, proof that there was no conviction (certified copy of the court record)
Before mailing off the application package, the spouse seeking a green card must have a medical examination performed by a USCIS-approved doctor. You can find one in your area by using the USCIS find a doctor tool.
These medical exams typically cost $200-300. Once the exam is complete, the doctor will give you a sealed envelope containing your exam results and vaccination record (Form I-693), which you include in your application package.
Your green card application package should include all of the above forms, fees, and documents. If the package includes any documents in a language other than English, you must also include a translation of each document, certified as accurate by the translator.
Once your green card application package is complete, you will mail it to the appropriate USCIS address. You will then get official receipt notices in the mail from USCIS (one each for the I-485, the I-765, and the I-131), typically within two weeks.
If USCIS needs more information or documents to process your green card application package, they will send you a “Request for Evidence” (RFE) within 2-3 months.
Mailing the Package