Refugee Adjustment of Status (I-485 Form)

After the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) admits a person into the U.S. as a refugee, she or he may apply for adjustment of status to become a permanent resident. Unlike family and employment-based adjustment applications, a separate regulation governs a refugee’s application for permanent resident status.

I-485 Form created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Unlike other immigrant categories, refugees must apply for adjustment of status (I-485 Form) 1-year after entering the U.S. Like other immigrant categories, refugee applicants must attend a biometrics appointment at a local USCIS office. USCIS may request an interview or may approve the I-485 application without an interview. USCIS makes interview determinations on a case-by-case basis.

In general, refugee adjustment applicants do not need to obtain a medical examination and only need to provide vaccination proof.  However, an applicant may need an I-693 exam if she or he qualified as medically inadmissible when admitted to the U.S. 

Does INA § 212(a) Inadmissibility Apply to Applicants for Refugee Adjustment?

Yes. When a refugee applies for status adjustment (I-485 Form), USCIS will examine the application to determine INA § 212(a) inadmissibility. Section 212(a) inadmissibility provides many legal reasons why USCIS may deny an application. For refugee adjustment applicants, USCIS will not consider the public charge, labor certification, and travel document inadmissibility reasons.

If an inadmissibility bar exists, a refugee applicant may apply for a waiver based upon humanitarian, family unity, or public interest reasons. A refugee applicant may file the waiver with the I-485 Form.  USCIS may not approve a waiver for all inadmissibility grounds. For example, USCIS cannot waive inadmissibility for trafficking controlled substances or reasons related to security, terrorism, foreign policy, genocide, torture, or extrajudicial killing.   

What Happens if USCIS Denies a Refugee Adjustment Application?

DHS regulation does not authorize a refugee to appeal a denied I-485 application. If denied, USCIS will notify the refugee that she or he may renew the I-485 Form during proceedings in immigration court.