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I-130 Approved, I-485 Pending: What's Next in the Immigration Process?
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I-130 Approved, I-485 Pending: What's Next in the Immigration Process?

Congratulations on Your I-130 Approval! Need Guidance on Your Pending I-485?

Your I-130 petition has recently been approved, bringing you one step closer to reuniting with your loved ones in the United States. Congratulations! However, as you eagerly await the final approval of your I-485 application, you may find yourself in limbo, wondering what steps to take next.

In this article, we'll guide you through the complexities of dealing with an approved I-130 and a pending I-485, providing valuable insights and actionable steps as you enter this crucial phase of your immigration journey.

If you're facing specific challenges or require professional assistance during this process, consider consulting an experienced adjustment of status lawyer to ensure a smooth transition.

Understanding Forms I-130 and I-485

Understanding Forms I-130 and I-485

To effectively navigate the immigration process, it's crucial to grasp the purpose and significance of these two forms. Both are integral components of the family-based immigration process in the United States, and each serves a distinct role.


Form I-130 is also referred to as the "Petition for Alien Relative." It must be filed by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder) on behalf of a family member who wishes to immigrate to the United States.

The primary purpose of the I-130 is to establish the qualifying relationship between the petitioner (the U.S. citizen or green card holder) and the beneficiary (the foreign family member). This form essentially initiates the immigration process and proves the familial connection required for the beneficiary to obtain a green card.


Form I-485, "Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status,” is submitted by the beneficiary (the foreign family member) to request a change in immigration status from a temporary visa holder to a lawful permanent resident while remaining in the U.S.

For all intents and purposes, the submission of form I-485 is the final step in the immigration process. It allows the beneficiary to adjust their status from non-immigrant to permanent resident, thereby facilitating their lawful residence in the United States.

Reasons for I-485 Pending Status

If your I-130 has been approved but your I-485 is still pending, it's important to understand the factors that can affect your petition.

With that in mind, here are some of the common reasons behind an I-485 pending status. Understanding these reasons and taking appropriate action is crucial in moving forward with your immigration process successfully.

Visa Bulletin Waiting Time

Visa Bulletin Waiting Time

One common reason for an I-485 to be pending is a lack of visa availability.

The U.S. government allocates a limited number of green cards each year for family-sponsored immigrants from different preference categories. Depending on the category you fall into and your priority date (the date USCIS received your I-130), you may need to wait for a visa number to become available before your I-485 can be processed.

Background Checks and Security Clearances

USCIS conducts thorough background checks and security clearances on all applicants. If there are any concerns or delays in this process, it can result in your I-485 remaining pending. This is particularly relevant if you have a complex immigration history or your background check raises any red flags.

Incomplete or Inaccurate Documentation

Errors or omissions in your I-485 application can lead to delays. In this case, USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) to seek additional information or clarification. It's crucial to respond promptly and accurately to such requests to avoid further delays.

Pending Adjudication of Other Petitions

If you have other immigration petitions awaiting processing, such as a waiver request or an I-601A provisional waiver, USCIS may hold off on processing your I-485 until these matters are resolved.

Pending or Missing Medical Examination

Pending or Missing Medical Examination

An I-485 application typically requires a medical examination by an approved civil surgeon. If you haven't completed this exam or the results are still pending, your application may remain open.

Interview Requirements

Some I-485 applicants are required to attend an interview at a USCIS office. Delays can occur if there are scheduling conflicts or the agency is experiencing a backlog of interviews.

Administrative Processing

In certain cases, particularly for applicants from countries with heightened security concerns, the U.S. government may conduct additional administrative processing, which can prolong the processing time of your I-485 significantly.

It’s important to understand the specific reason your adjustment of status is in limbo to determine the appropriate course of action.

In some cases, patience is required due to factors beyond your control, while in others, proactive steps can help expedite the process. It's best to stay informed, monitor your case status closely, and seek legal guidance if necessary to address any concerns or complications that may arise during this waiting period.

Steps to Take When Your I-130 Is Approved But Your I-485 Is Pending

Once your I-130 petition for family sponsorship is approved, the anticipation of reuniting with your loved ones builds up. However, that can’t happen until your I-485 application also gets the green light. Here are a few actions to consider when faced with this situation to ensure that you’re on the right path toward achieving your immigration goals.

1. Verify Your I-130 Approval

Before proceeding any further, it's wise to confirm the approval of your I-130 petition. You can do this by checking your mail for an official Form I-797, Notice of Action, from USCIS. This document typically provides confirmation of your I-130 approval.

Review this notice carefully to double-check that all information is accurate, including the beneficiary's name, the priority date, and the petitioner's details. If you've received an approval notice for your I-130, it means USCIS recognizes the qualifying relationship between you and your family member, which is a major achievement in the immigration process.

2. Review USCIS’s Processing Times

Review USCIS’s Processing Times

To gauge the expected processing timeline for your I-485 application, it's a good idea to review USCIS’s processing times for your specific service center or field office.

You can easily access this information on the USCIS website, which provides estimated processing times for various immigration forms. While checking, make sure to match your specific form (I-485) and office location.

Keep in mind that these processing times are approximate and can change based on various factors, including caseload and administrative changes. Even so, they can give you a general idea of how long you might have to wait for your I-485 to be processed.

Additionally, you can sign up for case status updates on the USCIS website or create an online account to track the progress of your application, which can provide more real-time information on its status.

Based on the latest available data, the processing time for family-based Form I-485 applications typically ranges from 13.5 to 20.5 months.

3. Contact USCIS for a Status Update

If your I-485 application has been pending for an extended period and you haven’t received any communications or updates, consider contacting USCIS to inquire about the progress of your case. To do this, you can call the USCIS National Customer Service Center using the phone number provided on the USCIS website.

When you call, be prepared to provide your receipt number (found on your Form I-797 receipt notice) and other relevant information.

USCIS customer service representatives may be able to provide general updates on your case's status or inform you if there have been any recent developments or delays. However, keep in mind that while this step can offer some insight, it may not always yield a definitive resolution or timeline for your pending I-485.

4. Consider Expedited Processing (If Applicable)

Under certain circumstances, you may be eligible to request Possible Outcomes and Next Steps of your I-485 application. USCIS typically grants expedited processing for cases that meet specific criteria, such as humanitarian reasons, severe financial loss, and other compelling situations. To request expedited processing, you must first determine whether your situation qualifies.

If so, you can contact the USCIS National Customer Service Center to request expedited processing and provide supporting documentation to justify your request. Be prepared to explain the urgency of your situation and why expedited processing is necessary. USCIS will review your request and make a decision based on the merits of your case.

It's vital to carefully follow USCIS’s guidelines and provide all required documentation to increase the chances of a successful expedited processing request. Not all cases will qualify for this option, and USCIS will make the final determination.

5. Consult an Immigration Attorney

Consult an Immigration Attorney

The guidance of an experienced immigration attorney can be highly valuable when dealing with a pending I-485 application, especially if you encounter complications or delays.

A dedicated immigration attorney from SimVisa can assess your specific situation, identify potential issues, and provide dependable advice on the best course of action. We can help you understand your rights and strategize to overcome any challenges that have arisen.

You can schedule an initial consultation with SimVisa. During the consultation, you'll have the opportunity to discuss your case, ask questions, and receive tailored guidance based on your unique circumstances.

An attorney can also help you explore various legal options, address your concerns, and ensure that your I-485 application progresses smoothly toward a successful outcome, helping you achieve your immigration goals.

Possible Outcomes and Next Steps

From approval to Requests for Evidence or even denial, there are numerous potential outcomes to this pivotal phase of your immigration journey. Discover what might lie ahead when your I-130 is approved but your I-485 remains pending.

1. I-485 Approval

Receiving approval for your I-485 application is the ideal outcome, as it signifies that you’ve been granted lawful permanent resident status in the United States.

Once your I-485 is approved, you’ll typically receive your green card, which serves as official proof of your legal status. With a green card, you have the freedom to live and work in the U.S. without time restrictions. You can also travel abroad and re-enter the country using your green card as long as it remains valid.

Next Steps: After receiving your green card, it's important to safeguard it, as it’s a priceless document. Ensure that all the information on the card is accurate, and report any errors to USCIS promptly. Additionally, be aware of your card's expiration date and start the renewal process well in advance to avoid any lapses in your legal status.

2. Request for Evidence

Request for Evidence

If USCIS determines that your I-485 application lacks sufficient supporting documentation or there are concerns that need clarification, they may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE). This is not a denial but simply a request for additional information.

It's imperative that you respond to the RFE within the specified timeframe, usually 87 days. Failure to do so can result in the denial of your application.

Next Steps: When you receive an RFE, carefully review the specific requirements outlined in the notice. Gather the requested documents and draft a comprehensive response that addresses USCIS's concerns.

If you need assistance or have questions about the RFE, work with an immigration attorney or accredited representative to guarantee a thorough and timely response.

3. Denial of I-485

While no one wants to face a denial, it's prudent to be prepared for this possibility and understand that it doesn’t necessarily spell the end of your immigration journey.

A denial means USCIS has determined that you don’t meet the eligibility criteria for adjustment of status. The reasons for denial can vary but may include insufficient evidence, ineligibility based on your immigration history, or other factors.

Next Steps: If your I-485 is denied, you have options to consider. You could file an appeal or a motion to reopen or reconsider, depending on the particulars of your case. Alternatively, you may elect to reapply, addressing any issues that led to the initial denial.

Seeking qualified legal advice is highly recommended in the event of a denial. An immigration attorney can help you assess your options and navigate the appeals process or otherwise determine the best course of action for your situation.

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If you find yourself in the frustrating situation of having your I-130 approved but still awaiting word of your I-485, remember that patience and proactive solutions are key. SimVisa, America’s trusted immigration law firm, is here to guide you through this process with unmatched knowledge and compassion.

Don't let uncertainty hold you back. Our experienced team is ready to assist you every step of the way. Contact us today, and let's work together to make your immigration dreams a reality.

I-130 Approved, I-485 Pending: What's Next in the Immigration Process?
SohYoon Atac
co-founder of SimVisa

Sohyoon is the co-founder of SimVisa. She has over 15 years of immigration specific experience and as an immigrant herself, fully understands the daunting nature of navigating the immigration process.

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