Checking Your Green Card Case Status

Checking the Status of Your I-485

If you are trying to get a green card without leaving the U.S., you have to apply for Adjustment of Status, using a Form I-485. Below is some helpful information on checking your green card case status.

But before explaining further, you’ll probably want to know some basics.

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How Do You File To Get a Green Card Inside the U.S.?

First, a quick summary of the process.

When you file for a green card, you’re asking to become a lawful permanent resident.  If you apply from inside the U.S. then you’ll file with the immigration agency known as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

Requesting a green card inside the U.S. is often referred to as “Adjustment of Status” or “AOS.”  To adjust status, you’ll use a Form I-485.

Checking the Status of Your Green Card Application (Form I-485)

Checking your case status online.

If you filed an I-485 with USCIS, you can check the status of your green card application online.  (If instead you filed a Form I-130, you’ll want to read more here.)

To do this, you will need the Receipt Number for your I-485.  When you first filed your I-485 with USCIS, you should have received a document known as a Receipt Notice, I-797 Notice of Action.  On your Receipt Notice, you’ll find your Receipt Number, which is at the top left corner of the I-797 and is made up of three letters followed by 10 numbers. (Ex NBC1234567890)

To check the status of your green card application, go to this website and plug in the Receipt Number.  There are several possible responses that you can get.

Possible information the online system may tell you.

A biometrics appointment has been scheduled

You I-485 case status might say that you were mailed a fingerprint appointment notice, sometimes referred to as a biometrics appointment.  

If so, you’ll need to make sure you got the notice in the mail, in order to find out when and where to go for fingerprints.  Immigration officials need your fingerprints to find out your immigration and criminal history.

A Request for Further Evidence has been sent

Another possible status of your I-485 case is that USCIS has sent you a letter requesting additional information.  This usually means that you have received a Request for Evidence (RFE) regarding your Form I-485.  If  you were sent a Request for Evidence, make sure to check your mail frequently.  Usually, Requests for Evidence have deadlines for responding.  If you don’t respond by the deadline , your green card application could be denied.

A notice that the case has been transferred

Finally, your USCIS green card case status might say that your case has been transferred to another office.  If your case was sent to a USCIS local field office, this means that your green card case is moving forward.  The local USCIS field office will make a decision on your green card application. 

Occasionally, your green card case may get transferred to a different USCIS service center.  Sometimes this happens when one service center is backlogged, and to speed things up they are sending your case somewhere else.  In this situation, all you can do is wait until the service center makes a decision on your case or sends it to a local field office.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Decision On My Green Card Application?

It depends on several things.  To demonstrate, let’s look at some examples related to a family-based immigration case with USCIS.

Is your application based on a child-parent relationship?  Usually, green card applications based on child-parent relationships are faster because USCIS often does not  need to interview you since the birth certificate establishes the child-parent relationship.

Is it based on a marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident?   A marriage-based green card application is typically slower because USCIS  always schedules an interview to see if the marriage is real.

One other thing to point out.  The processing time also depends on where in the United States you are applying. The processing times for green card applications differ quite a bit by your city and state especially if USCIS wants to interview you.  For example, the processing times in Los Angeles, California will be far longer than in Oklahoma City.  

What if USCIS is Taking Too Long On My Green Card Application?

Before you spend time (and money) taking steps to speed up a decision on your green card application, you should start by checking processing times.  If your case is within normal process times, there is not much you can do.   

If you’ve already checked processing times and you find out your case processing is slower than normal, then you should consider taking the steps below:

  • First, you’ll want to make a request online, called a USCIS case inquiry.  This sometimes helps cases by drawing attention to problems or delays on the part of the government. After you send the inquiry,  USCIS will then send you an email or letter telling you that your case status request was received and by when you’ll get a response.  Beware,  USCIS often does not respond or update the case status by the date stated in the response. 
  • If the online request does not help — it usually does not — you will want to escalate the situation by calling the USCIS phone hotline at 1-800-375-5283  When you call, have your Receipt Number ready and be able to explain that the case is taking longer than it is supposed to.
  • Last, if you know that your I-485, or green card application, has already been sent to a USCIS local field office, then you can write a letter to the local USCIS field office that is handling your case asking for an update.  When you send the letter make sure to include all identifying information such as form type (I-485) and Receipt Number so USCIS will be able to locate your file.

For further information can also check out our article on fixing USCIS delays and our article on fixing delays in your green card case.

 

 

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