Eligibility Criteria For Filing Form I-485

Form I-485, also known as the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is a crucial step in the path to obtaining a green card in the United States. This form allows eligible foreign nationals to apply for permanent resident status, allowing them to live and work in the country indefinitely. However, not everyone can file Form I-485, and it’s important to understand the eligibility criteria to ensure a smooth application process. In this article, we will explore who can file I-485.

Family-Based Category

One of the most common ways to become eligible to file Form I-485 is through family sponsorship. If you have a close family member who is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), they can petition for you to obtain a green card. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, such as spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21, have priority in this category. Other family members, including married children and siblings of U.S. citizens, may also be eligible, but they may face longer waiting periods.

To be eligible for Form I-485 in the family-based category, the sponsoring family member must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on your behalf and receive approval from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once the I-130 petition is approved, you can proceed with filing Form I-485.

Employment-Based Category

If you have a job offer from a U.S. employer and meet certain criteria, you may be eligible to file Form I-485 through the employment-based category. This category is divided into several preference categories, with higher preferences receiving priority. Individuals with extraordinary abilities, outstanding professors or researchers, multinational executives and managers, and certain advanced degree professionals typically fall into the higher preference categories.

To file Form I-485 in the employment-based category, your U.S. employer must first obtain labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and then file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, on your behalf. Once the I-140 petition is approved, you can proceed with Form I-485.

Refugee or Asylee Status

If you have been granted refugee or asylee status in the United States, you may be eligible to file Form I-485 to adjust your status to that of a permanent resident. Refugees and asylees are individuals who have been granted protection in the U.S. due to a well-founded fear of persecution in their home countries.

To file Form I-485 as a refugee or asylee, you must have been physically present in the United States for at least one year after being granted refugee or asylee status. You should also file your application within one year of becoming eligible to do so, or else you may need to provide a valid reason for the delay.

Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Winners

Every year, the U.S. government conducts the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery program, also known as the Green Card Lottery, which provides an opportunity for individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States to obtain green cards. If you are selected as a DV lottery winner, you can file Form I-485 to adjust your status to that of a permanent resident.

To be eligible, you must have been selected through the DV Lottery program, and you must meet the educational and work experience requirements established by the program. It’s important to note that winning the lottery does not guarantee approval of your Form I-485, as you must still meet all eligibility criteria and provide accurate documentation.

Special Programs

Certain special programs may also make you eligible to file Form I-485. These programs are often specific to unique circumstances and are subject to change. Examples of such programs include the Cuban Adjustment Act, the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, and the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act. If you believe you qualify under one of these programs, it is advisable to consult with an immigration attorney or check USCIS’s official website for the most up-to-date information.


Form I-485 is a crucial step on the path to obtaining permanent resident status in the United States. To determine if you are eligible to file Form I-485, it’s essential to understand the specific criteria based on your immigration category, whether it’s family-based, employment-based, refugee or asylee status, DV lottery, or a special program. Meeting these eligibility requirements is crucial for a successful application process, ensuring that you can pursue your dream of becoming a permanent resident in the United States.

In summary, Form I-485 eligibility depends on various factors, but understanding your specific category and adhering to the requirements is the key to a smooth and successful application process. Whether you are a family member, an employee, a refugee, a lottery winner, or eligible under a special program, navigating the Form I-485 process is a significant step towards achieving your goal of obtaining permanent resident status in the United States.