I-485 Initial Interview Guide

I-485 Initial Interview Guide

The I-485 initial interview is part of the process for individuals applying for lawful permanent residence (green card) from within the United States. If everything goes well, at the end of this interview, your case may be approved. 

Here are ten common questions related to the I-485 initial interview:

1. What is the purpose of the I-485 initial interview?

The purpose of the interview is to assess the eligibility of the applicant for adjustment of status. Eligibility questions may relate to having a qualified relationship with a US citizen, financial issues, criminal history, health, and background. It allows a USCIS officer to ask questions about your case before deciding whether to approve or deny your application. Other reasons for an interview may include: 

  • Need to confirm the identity of the applicant;

  • Need to validate the applicant’s immigration status;

  • The applicant entered the United States without inspection, or there are other unresolved issues regarding the applicant’s manner of entry;

  • There are known criminal inadmissibility or national security concerns that cannot be resolved at a service center;

  • There are fraud concerns and the service center recommends an interview;

  • The applicant’s fingerprints have been rejected twice;

  • The applicant has a Class A medical condition that the service center cannot resolve through a Request for Evidence (RFE);

  • The applicant answered “Yes” to any eligibility question on the adjustment application, and the service center cannot determine eligibility through an RFE; or

  • The service center has not been able to obtain an applicant’s A-File, T-File, or receipt file (when the applicant has multiple files).

2. What documents should I bring to the I-485 interview?

When you work with our firm, we will guide you on what documents to bring. Below is a general guideline of all documents that may apply. If you are unclear about what documents you are required to bring, ask your attorney.

You should bring the original documents. In addition to bringing the original documents, you should also bring one copy of each document to provide to the USCIS adjudicator.

You should also bring translations of all documents that are in a language other than English. Note: even though you are bringing translations of documents, you must also bring documents in their original language. 

□ Interview Appointment Notice;

□ Passports;

□ Form I-94;

□ Any Additional Immigration Status Documents, such as:

□ I-797 Notices of Approval;

□ I-20s;

□ DS-2019s;

□ Beneficiary’s Birth Certificate;

□ Petitioner’s Birth Certificate;

□ Work Authorization Card (if you have been issued one);

□ Drivers Licenses (if you have been issued one);

□ Petitioner’s Certificate of Naturalization (if the Petitioner is a naturalized U.S. Citizen);

□ Petitioner’s Consular Report of Birth Abroad (if the Petitioner is a U.S. Citizen born outside the United States);

□ Petitioner’s Green Card (if the Petitioner is a U.S. Permanent Resident);

□ Marriage Certificate (if your Application is based upon marriage to the Petitioner, or if your Application is based upon you being a Derivative Beneficiary Spouse, or if you Application is based upon you being the Parent of the Petitioner);

□ Certified Divorce Decree for all prior marriages for you and/or your spouse (or Death Certificate if marriage ended due to death of the spouse) (if your Application is based upon marriage to the Petitioner, or if your Application is based upon you being a Derivative Beneficiary Spouse, or if your Application is based upon you being the Parent of the Petitioner);

□ Marriage Certificate for your Parents (if your Application is based upon you being the Child/Stepchild Son/Daughter of the Petitioner, or if your Application is based upon you being a Derivative Beneficiary Child/Stepchild, or if your Application is based upon you being the sibling of the Petitioner);

□ Certified Divorce order for all prior marriages for either of your parents (or Death Certificate if marriage ended due to death of the spouse) (if your Application is based upon you being the Child/Stepchild Son/Daughter of the Petitioner, or if your Application is based upon you being a Derivative Beneficiary Child/Stepchild, or if your Application is based upon you being the sibling of the Petitioner);

□ Proof of Bona Fide Marriage (see separate list) (if your Application is based upon your marriage to the Petitioner);

□ Certified Court Disposition of ANY arrests or criminal charges;

□ Proof that you/the Primary Beneficiary were living in the United States on December 21, 2000 (if you are applying under INA §245(i) – Ask your attorney if it is not clear whether you are applying under 245(i));

□ Updated evidence of the Petitioner’s continued ability to support you (if you have a co-sponsor, it is recommended that you obtain these updated documents from the co-sponsor as well): 

□ Update letter from employer;

□ Most recent IRS Personal Tax Return with Form W-2 if they have filed with the IRS since the I-485 Application was submitted to USCIS;

□ Recent paystubs or copy of cashed checks from employer if updated letter from employer not available;

□ Medical Examination Report (if not already submitted with the Application or in response to a Request for Evidence).

3. Can my family members attend the interview with me?

When the I-485 was filed based on a family petitions, both the petitioner and intended immigrant should attend. The petitioner's attendance is not optional. 

4. What types of questions will be asked during the I-485 interview?

Understanding the nature of the questions helps applicants prepare for the interview. Questions can cover personal background, immigration history, and the basis for adjustment of status. You should be prepared to answer any questions related to any information in your application. This is why it is very important to review and be very familiar with your application. 

5. What happens if I miss or need to reschedule my I-485 interview?

If you miss your I-485 interview for no reason, your application may be denied or decided based on the paper record. This is not recommended. There is no penalty for having to reschedule your appointment. However, you should consider that interview appointments may be hard to come by and that rescheduling can cause significant delay to your application. 

6. How long does the I-485 interview typically last?

The length of your interview depends on the complexity of your case. However, most interviews last between 30mins and 1 hour. When you add the length of time to go to the USCIS field office and arrive early, most applicants prepare for a half-day to full-day commitment for the I-485 interview. If possible, take the full day off work, and do not schedule other commitments, so you are not feeling rushed through your interview. 

7. What happens after a successful I-485 interview?

The officer may tell you on the spot that your case has been approved and you may get a stamp on your passport. It is also possible for the officer to tell you that he needs to further review the file and that you will receive a decision in the mail. 

If approved, your green card will be mailed shortly thereafter. 

8. What happens if the I-485 application is denied?

If your I-485 application is denied, it is important to understand why. This will help you determine next steps and is something you should discuss with your attorney. Some potential options may be: 

  • Filing a motion to reconsider with USCIS
  • Filing a motion to Reopen with USCIS 
  • Requesting a review from USCIS's Administrative Appeals Office (AAO)
  • Reapplying and starting the process from the beginning 

9. Can I bring an attorney to the I-485 interview?

Yes, you may choose to bring an attorney with you to the I-485 interview. At our office, since we serve clients nationwide, we do not include interview attendance in our base pricing. However, it is an optional add-on. Depending on the complexity of your case, your lawyer may suggest you add this option, despite the extra cost. 

However, keep in mind that you must still prepare to answer all the questions. Your attorney is not able to answer questions on your behalf. 

10. What is the current processing time for I-485 applications?

The processing time for Form I-485 for family-based applications at the time of writing (2024) is currently 13.5–20.5  months. This time varies and changes from time to time. 


I-485 interview tips: 

  1. Always tell the truth.
  2. Listen very carefully to the questions that the officer is asking. If you are not certain that you understand what the officer is asking, do not answer the question. Tell the officer that you did not understand the question and ask them to repeat or explain the question. 
  3. If you do not know the answer to a question, the most honest answer is to tell the officer that you do not know the answer or do not remember the answer. The officer will probably ask you to take your best guess, at which point the officer will know that you are not sure about the answer, and if you provide incorrect information, it is less likely that the officer will think that you are trying to lie or hide information.
  4. Only answer the questions that the USCIS office asks. As a rule, you should not volunteer information that the USCIS officer did not ask for. Keep your answers short. You should not give overly long answers or “ramble on.”  If you can answer a question with “yes” or “no,” then answer with “yes” or “no.”  However, if a simple short answer does fully answer the USCIS officer’s question, you should use your best judgement in giving a longer answer. Just remember that if you give long answers to the questions beyond what is necessary to answer the question asked, the interview will unnecessarily take longer, and you are more likely to say something that will lead the USCIS officer to ask even more questions. 
  5. Be familiar with your application. Take the time to review your application again carefully. Most of the questions that the USCIS officer will be asking at the interview will come directly from the application. The more familiar you are with the questions on the application, the more comfortable you will be during the interview.
  6. While you are reviewing the application in preparation for the interview, if there are any mistakes on the application or information that needs to be updated, please let your lawyer know. You should NOT lie in the interview to match the mistaken information on your application. If there is a mistake on the application, the interview is the time to correct that mistake.
  7. If you need to refer to a document or a record to answer a question completely, it is usually okay to say, “I need to look at my documents.” For example, if you do not have your social security number memorized, you can bring your social security card with you to look at during the interview.
  8. Dress nicely. For example, do not wear a t-shirt, jeans, or shorts. Dress in “business casual” or nicer.
  9. Be on time for your interview. If your attorney will be accompanying you to your interview, make sure you understand when and where your attorney will be meeting you.
  10. Bring your interview appointment notice. Bring all your original documents. Bring translations of any documents not in English. Bring one copy of each of your documents. Do not assume that your attorney will be bringing any of your documents to the interview. Make sure you have your documents arranged in a folder, envelope, etc. in a way that you are comfortable knowing where each of your documents are located within the folder.

Do you have extra questions or need extra support with your I-485 application? 

We can help. To get started, schedule a strategy session here

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