Many people are not aware that USCIS quietly released a new edition of the Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. The new edition is dated 6/26/17 and must be used if filing on August 25, 2017 or anytime after. Before August 25, the older edition (edition date 01/17/17) may still be used. The I-485 is the form that must be submitted in connection with any application for a green card if the applicant is presently in the United States and wishes to change one’s status to a permanent resident. However, it is important to note that the I-485 is not the only form that is ordinarily submitted to USCIS. In family based cases, for example, it will also be accompanied by the I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, if one has not already been filed and approved. (If already approved, the I-130 approval notice is usually submitted with the I-485.)
The new form is noticeably longer and more detailed than the present one in use. In terms of length, the current I-485 is six pages. The new I-485 is a formidable eighteen pages, full of questions that are not found on the current form. Moreover, the scope and nature of the questions are much more complex, requiring the applicant to arguably make very legal determinations in order to answer the questions truthfully and accurately. Other questions, while always relevant in determining eligibility, explicitly address issues that not only can lead to disqualification but possibly expose the applicant to a charge of deportability. In short, the new application is considerably complicated and should not be attempted without legal assistance in light of the climate and current emphasis on enforcement.
The form is too dense to cover in one article. Some general observations worth noting though will be discussed. For one, the form does make an effort to streamline and categorize general classes of eligibility. For example, the form does specifically list the basic groups of people eligible to apply under the following categories: family; employment; special immigrant; asylee or refugee; human trafficking or crime victims; special programs based on certain public laws; and additional options, such as the diversity visa lottery and registry. In terms of biographic information, the form appears to duplicate, perhaps unnecessarily, some of the information requested on the G-325A Biographic Data Form and I-130A Form, such as previous address history, previous employment history, information about parents, spouses, and previous spouses. All of these questions reflect a growing emphasis on scrutinizing the applicant by not only scouring his/her present biographic statistics but also past affiliations, ties, and connections with people whom he/she has tangentially been related to. (On the other hand, if you think this is bad, consider the new DS 5535 form which some unfortunate consular processing visa applicants will have to fill out, which goes back 15 years into the applicant’s life.)
In terms of the security and inadmissibility questions, there is a plethora of new questions that have been incorporated. Some loaded ones include the following:
General Eligibility and Inadmissibility Grounds
· Have you EVER been denied admission to the United States?
· Have you EVER been denied a visa to the United States?
· Have you EVER worked in the United States without authorization?
· Have you EVER violated the terms or conditions of your nonimmigrant status?
Criminal Acts and Violations
· Have you EVER been ordered punished by a judge or had conditions imposed on you that restrained your liberty (such as a prison sentence, suspended sentence, house arrest, parole, alternative sentencing, drug or alcohol treatment, rehabilitative programs or classes, probation, or community service)?
· Have you EVER been a defendant or the accused in a criminal proceeding (including pre-trial diversion, deferred prosecution, deferred adjudication, or any withheld adjudication)?
Illegal Entries and Other Immigration Violations
· Have you EVER submitted fraudulent or counterfeit documentation to any U.S. Government official to obtain or attempt to obtain any immigration benefit, including a visa or entry into the United States?
· Have you EVER lied about, concealed, or misrepresented any information on an application or petition to obtain a visa, other documentation required for entry into the United States, admission to the United States, or any other kind of immigration benefit?
· Have you EVER falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen (in writing or any other way)?
The above is just a sampling of new questions that are on the new form I-485 and by no means, represent the most important. What is considered important or potentially troublesome is fact and case sensitive and will depend on the applicant’s individual case circumstances. In any case, any applicant for adjustment of status should be cognizant of these new changes. Even if one submits the older version of Form I-485, officers may nevertheless delve into issues and areas covered on the new form during the course of an interview.
The above is general information only and not to be relied upon as legal advice. It does not create an attorney client relationship nor should it be relied upon as advice in lieu of consultation with an attorney.