Let’s be real—there are a lot of U.S. immigration terms. It gets confusing! Our goal with this article is to help you understand the difference between Form I-140 and Form I-485. The more you understand now, the easier the rest of your U.S. immigration journey will be!
What is an immigration ‘Form’?
In the most basic sense of the word, a ‘Form’ within U.S. immigration refers to legal forms you fill out and send to the U.S. government.
Within U.S. immigration, this term is also often used to describe specific categories of visa or green card petitions.
For example, Form I-129 both refers specifically to a particular form you fill out, as well as generally to all types of visas that use this form. Most U.S. work visas are filed with Form I-129.
In this example, the information you read about work visas online may refer to Form I-129, either referencing the actual immigration form or the set of work visas that use Form I-129.
Further, your immigration attorney might mention that you are going to file Form I-129. Yes, they mean you will file the form, but they are also referring to all the evidence that will go along with the form you file.
Immigration Forms for Green Cards
You will typically be required to file two separate immigration forms to obtain a green card. If you are getting your green card through employment, this will require you to file both Form I-140 and Form I-485.
Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
Form I-140 is the first step to obtaining an employment-based green card. There are numerous I-140 categories that vary in qualifications, requirements, and processing times.
For example, EB-1, EB-2 PERM, EB-2 NIW, and EB-3 are all Form I-140 immigrant petitions.
When you file a Form I-140 petition, you will receive a “priority date,” which serves as your spot in line to file Form I-485.
Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
Form I-485 is commonly referred to as your green card application or permanent residency application. If you’re applying for a green card, you will file Form I-485 regardless of whether your green card qualifications are based on employment, marital status, or humanitarian reasons.
However, you cannot file Form I-485 on its own. Form I-485 must be filed either after filing an immigrant petition or concurrently with an immigrant petition, such as Form I-140, Form I-130, or Form I-360.
In addition, you need to have a ‘current’ priority date to file Form I-485. As mentioned above, your priority date is the date your immigrant petition—such as Form I-140—was received by USCIS. If you want to file I-140 and I-485 at the same time (concurrently), your priority date will be the date you intend to file.
You’ll need to check the visa bulletin to determine whether or not your priority date is current. When you are current, you can file I-485. You cannot file the I-485 before filing the I-140.
When do you get your green card?
You won’t get your green card until your I-485 is approved, which will only happen after your I-140 has also been approved. Processing times vary greatly based on the type of I-140 petition you file, and they are always changing. Be sure to monitor USCIS’s website for the most up-to-date processing times.
When you file Form I-485, you can also file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, which grant you work authorization and the ability to travel internationally while you’re waiting for your green card to be approved.
We hope you now feel confident in your understanding of the difference between I-140s and I-485s. Do you have more immigration questions? Check out Legalpad’s resources page. If you’d personalized help exploring your green card or work visa options, get started with us today!