Today the USCIS published a revised Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485). While this new version had been in draft form for over a year, the drastic changes it includes were hoped to have been scrapped. My first impression is that this form will make adjustment of status take longer and will require closer scrutiny by attorneys preparing these forms.
As of today, there is a 60-day grace period to file the old version of the form. However, starting Aug. 25, USCIS will only accept the revised Form and Supplement A and J of Form I-485.
More Information Requested
This biggest change is that they’re asking for way more information than they had asked before. The Form I-485 hadn’t changed significantly in decades. Now they’ve decided they need a lot more information to decide adjustment of status cases. So, you’re going to have answer some questions.
Numerous additional questions on this form are going to lead to trouble for some people adjusting their status. In the wise words of Admiral Ackbar in Return of the Jedi:
Most striking is how many additional questions are here that weren’t on the old form. Those new questions are going to be confusing (some are downright head-scratchers). In its press release, the USCIS referred to this as a “comprehensive, updated list of admissibility-related questions.” Yeah.
Here are a few questions on the new form that aren’t on the old form:
These aren’t inherently confusing questions, but I have a feeling many people will not know the difference between having been denied a visa and having been denied admission. Also, I have a strong suspicion many won’t know what all is included in the question about violating the terms or conditions of your nonimmigrant status.
It gets harder. Here are questions about criminal history that might make anyone think they are perhaps a criminal and must say “yes”:
How does one know if they have ever had “conditions imposed” on them that “restrained” their liberty? What does that even mean? “Rehabilitative programs or classes” aren’t intended to restrain liberty, they’re intended to rehabilitate.
Two more examples (although there are many here). This one is about failing to attend “or to remain in attendance at” a removal proceeding.
How do you know if you left your immigration court hearing early? Or whether you had “reasonable cause” to leave early. Finally, my favorite:
So, this is a question the old form definitely didn’t ask, but saying “yes” will in most cases not just mean the denial of your application but will mean you are deportable with very little relief from removal available. The question doesn’t ask you everything you need to know to be inadmissible (the statute actually requires the false claim to be for a “purpose or benefit” under the law). Will people say “yes” to this even they haven’t made a false claim for a “purpose or benefit”? Probably. Will people say “no” to this question even when they’re confused about what it means? Probably.
The New Form Also is Much Longer
The old form was 6 pages long. The new form is 18 pages long. That’s how much extra room they needed to ask you these 65 or so inadmissibility questions. That means attorneys preparing these forms for clients are going to have to charge more because they’re going to take far longer to prepare. Note that the Form I-130 expanded from 2 pages to 11 pages earlier this year. Now the I-485 has similarly ballooned in size. Which means people will make more mistakes or have to pay more to get help filling them out.