Introduction

Receiving approval for Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, marks a significant milestone in the journey to becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States. However, approval of the I-485 is not the final step. This essay will explore what happens after your I-485 is approved, including the next steps you should take, the rights and responsibilities of a new permanent resident, and the path toward naturalization.

What Happens After I-485 Approval?

  1. Receiving Your Green Card: Once your I-485 application is approved, you will receive a notice of approval from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Shortly thereafter, you will be mailed your green card, which serves as proof of your status as a lawful permanent resident (LPR). This card is critical for employment, travel, and reentry into the United States.
  2. Notification of Approval: The USCIS will send you a Form I-797, Notice of Action, indicating that your application has been approved. This document is important and should be kept for your records.
  3. Green Card Validity: The green card is typically valid for 10 years (for those granted permanent residency through family or employment-based petitions) or 2 years (for conditional residents, such as those married to U.S. citizens for less than two years). Conditional residents must apply to remove the conditions on their residence before the green card expires.

Rights and Responsibilities of a New Permanent Resident

Rights

  1. Right to Live and Work: As a green card holder, you have the right to live permanently in the United States, work in any job of your choice (with some limitations on government jobs), and travel in and out of the country more freely.
  2. Access to Benefits: You may be eligible for certain federal and state benefits, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, after meeting specific residency requirements.
  3. Education and Loans: You may qualify for in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities and apply for federal student loans and grants.
  4. Path to Citizenship: After a certain period, typically five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen), you can apply for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process.

Responsibilities

  1. Obeying Laws: You must adhere to all federal, state, and local laws. Any criminal activity can jeopardize your permanent resident status and lead to deportation.
  2. Filing Taxes: As a permanent resident, you are required to file U.S. federal and state income tax returns and report your income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and state tax authorities.
  3. Selective Service Registration: Male residents between the ages of 18 and 25 must register with the Selective Service System.
  4. Address Notification: You must inform USCIS of any change of address within 10 days of moving by filing Form AR-11, Alien’s Change of Address Card.
  5. Travel Considerations: While you can travel outside the United States, you should ensure that your trips are not too lengthy. Extended absences can be interpreted as abandonment of your permanent resident status. Obtaining a re-entry permit (Form I-131) is advisable if you plan to be outside the U.S. for more than a year.

Path to Citizenship

  1. Eligibility for Naturalization: After maintaining permanent resident status for five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen), you may be eligible to apply for naturalization. This period is known as the “continuous residence” requirement.
  2. Naturalization Application: To apply for citizenship, you must file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and meet all eligibility criteria, including physical presence, continuous residence, good moral character, and knowledge of English and U.S. civics.
  3. Naturalization Interview and Test: You will be scheduled for an interview with USCIS where you will take an English and civics test. If you pass the interview and test, you will be scheduled for a naturalization ceremony.
  4. Oath of Allegiance: At the naturalization ceremony, you will take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, officially becoming a U.S. citizen. You will then receive a Certificate of Naturalization as proof of your new status.

Conclusion

Approval of Form I-485 is a major achievement on the path to becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States. However, it is important to understand the next steps, including receiving your green card, adhering to your new responsibilities, and eventually pursuing naturalization if you wish to become a U.S. citizen. Navigating these steps successfully will ensure that you can fully enjoy the rights and benefits of permanent residency while fulfilling your obligations.