Green Card Applicants Subject to Heightened Scrutiny Via New Edition of Form I-485

Author: Rena Pirsos, XpertHR Legal Editor

June 29, 2017

In keeping with the Trump administration's call for "extreme vetting" of immigrants, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published a new edition of Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, that subjects applicants to heightened scrutiny.

Form I-485 must be completed and filed by nonresident immigrant individuals who are physically present in the US and wish to obtain lawful permanent US residence status. If that status is granted to an applicant, the individual is issued a "green card."

The new edition of the form is substantially longer - 18 pages, as opposed to the current form which is only six pages long - and it asks applicants for more information about potential grounds of inadmissibility than previous editions. This includes biographic information (i.e., race, ethnicity, height, weight, hair and eye color), as well as information about prior activities that could prevent US admission.

For example, some of the highly detailed questions included on the new form require disclosure of:

  • Prior criminal acts, convictions or violations;
  • Intention or threats to engage in any national security-related violations (e.g., relating to espionage or US government sabotage, foreign policy or technology);
  • Prior removal from, unlawful presence in or illegal reentry to the US after a previous immigration violation;
  • The use of any other birth date(s) (in addition to the applicant's actual birth date) in connection with any legal or nonlegal names;
  • Prior unauthorized employment in the US; and
  • Any family members engaged in criminal activity or whether the applicant has benefitted from any such activity.

According to Anthony F. Siliato, a partner and the head of the Immigration Law Group at Meyner and Landis LLP in New Jersey,

"The new Form I-485, in subjecting foreign national workers to additional scrutiny, will most likely result in additional delays (beyond the current 10-month processing time) in the adjudication of adjustment of status applications of foreign national workers. This processing time is, of course, in addition to the long wait (up to 11 years) for immigrant visa numbers to become available for foreign nationals of backlogged countries such as India."

Starting August 25, 2017, USCIS will accept only the new June 26, 2017, edition of Form I-485. Until then, applicants may use the shorter January 17, 2017, edition. The edition date is located at the bottom of the page on the form and instructions.