Q: What Is Concurrent Filing?
A: Persons seeking to immigrate to the United States in employment-based categories must complete two separate processes in order to become permanent residents. First, they must establish that they qualify in one of the employment-based immigrant categories, by filing Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. Second, they must establish that they qualify for permanent residence under the general rules applicable to all immigrants, whether employment-based or not, which may be done in the United States by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, or from outside the United States by completing consular immigrant visa processing. In the past, persons had to wait for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to approve the I-140 before being able to pursue the second step of the process.
Concurrent filing, which became permissible under an interim rule announced on July 31, 2002, allows persons applying for permanent residence to submit the Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, either along with a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, or after the I‑140 is filed but before it is approved, as long as there is no quota backlog in their immigrant category. Concurrent filing affects only the Adjustment of Status (I‑485) process, it does not affect those cases pursuing consular immigrant visa processing.
Q: Must Concurrent Filing Be Used?
A: Absolutely not. An individual may continue to wait for approval of the I-140 before filing the I-485, and in many cases we advise that it is prudent to wait.
Q: Who Is Allowed To File Concurrently?
A: Concurrent filing is available to individuals eligible to adjust to permanent resident status at the time an I-140 is filed on their behalf to classify them in the EB-1 category (alien of extraordinary ability, outstanding researcher, multi-national manager); the EB-2 category (advanced degree professional, national interest waiver; alien with exceptional ability); or the EB-3 category (professional or skilled worker). An immigrant visa number must be immediately available, meaning that the priority date must be current.
Persons who have engaged in unauthorized employment or otherwise violated their nonimmigrant status may not be eligible. Similarly, persons who are subject to the two-year home residence requirement are not eligible unless this requirement has been waived or the obligation has been fulfilled.
Q: Can Form I-485 Be Filed After the I-140 Is Filed But Before It Is Approved?
A: Yes, once a Receipt Notice for the I-140 is issued, the I-485 can be filed along with this Receipt Notice and the petition and application will be matched up. This strategy may be advisable if the I-140 is ready to file, but the supporting documentation for the I-485 is not ready.
Q: What Are the Benefits of Using Concurrent Filing?
A: One of the main benefits of concurrent filing is that it allows both the principal and his or her dependents to apply for employment authorization (EAD) and travel permission (advance parole). This ability to obtain employment authorization and travel permission is particularly important to those nonimmigrants approaching their maximum authorized stay in nonimmigrant categories such as “H” and “L,” as it may enable them to avoid violation of their status or the accrual of unlawful presence. In addition, the EAD allows job flexibility for the principal (ability to work without H, L or other non-immigrant approval) as well as travel flexibility (ability to travel without a visa), and allows the dependents to obtain employment authorization.
Note that it is not always necessary for individuals to obtain both EAD and advance parole. For those maintaining H or L status, the advance parole can be used as a travel document and the H or L approval notice can be used to establish authorization to continue working for the sponsoring employer. EAD would only be required if the principal wanted to work beyond the scope of his or her H or L.
Q: What Are the Risks of Using Concurrent Filing?
A: One of the main risks of concurrent filing is associated with not maintaining a valid, non-immigrant status. While proper filing of the I-485 does grant permission to remain in the U.S., it is not considered a non-immigrant status. Should the underlying I-140 be denied, the I-485 will also be denied, and applicants who have not maintained a valid, non-immigrant status will no longer have a lawful basis to remain in the U.S.
Issues relating to maintenance of status may be very complicated, and vary depending on the type of non-immigrant status each applicant holds. Therefore, it is very important to discuss potential risks to you or your dependents’ status before either deciding to file concurrently, or before deciding to use EAD or advance parole. In many cases, we advise maintaining a non-immigrant status at least until the I-140 is approved.
Q: Will Concurrent Filing of an I-485 Result in a Faster Grant of Permanent Resident Status?
A: Not always. Because of constantly-changing processing times at the Service Centers and the dozens of consular posts which handle applications for immigrant visas, it is impossible to generally state that concurrent processing is always faster, or always slower, than consular immigrant processing.
Q: If Concurrent Filing Is Not Used, Will It Delay the I-140 Adjudication?
A: To date, that has not been the experience of our office. However, how USCIS prioritizes cases is always subject to change.
Q: Can Concurrent Filing Be Used If More Than One I-140 Is Filed on Behalf of the Same Beneficiary?
A: Yes, with a few caveats.
Generally, if an I-140 is filed seeking to classify a foreign national as an alien of extraordinary ability and a separate I-140 is filed requesting a national interest waiver for the same foreign national, he or she may submit, at the same time or subsequently, an I-485 with one of the I-140 petitions. USCIS has said that only one I-485 per applicant may be filed at a time. If more than one I-485 is pending, USCIS may request that one of the I-485s be withdrawn.
The first caveat is if the I-485 accompanies the extraordinary ability I-140, but the national interest waiver I-140 is approved first, USCIS will not transfer the I-485 to the approved I-140 until the extraordinary ability I-140 has been adjudicated. If the extraordinary ability I-140 is approved, the I-485 will, in all likelihood, also be approved.
If the extraordinary ability I-140 is denied, and the priority date for the national interest waiver I-140 is current, USCIS will usually, but not always, match the pending I-485 to the approved petition. If the extraordinary ability I-140 is denied, and the priority date for the national interest waiver I-140 is not current, USCIS will not transfer the I-485 to the national interest I-140. USCIS can only transfer the I-485 if a visa number is available for that I-140 petition. Therefore, when the extraordinary ability I-140 is denied, and the national interest I-140 is approved but the priority date is not current, the I-485 will be denied.
The second caveat is if the I-485 accompanies the national interest I-140, and the extraordinary ability I-140 is approved first, again, USCIS will not transfer the I-485 until the national interest I-140 is adjudicated. If the national interest I-140 retrogresses, meaning the priority date is no longer current, USCIS can still transfer the I-485 to the extraordinary ability I-140 as long as the extraordinary ability I-140 remains current.
Finally, if the I-485 accompanies one or the other of the I-140s, and that I-140 is denied, and the other I-140 remains pending, USCIS may match the I-485 to the pending I-140 as long as the pending I-140 remains current. If this is missed by USCIS, and the I-485 is denied, it may be necessary to file a motion to reopen.
Q: If Concurrent Filing Is Used, and the I-485 is Eligible for Transfer from One I-140 to Another I-140, is there a Process to do so?
A: Maybe. There is no established process to transfer the I-485 from one I-140 to another. If there is a Request for Evidence (RFE) on the I-140 filed concurrently with the I-485, and another I-140 has been approved and is current, we can request that in the context of the response to the RFE. However, if there is no RFE, it is often extremely difficult and entangling to request such a transfer. While it is possible to make a request, it may take a long time, and may go unheeded by USCIS.
Q: Should a Concurrent I-485 Be Filed When Approval of the I-140 Is Uncertain?
A: Maybe. In extraordinary ability, outstanding researcher/professor and national interest waiver cases where USCIS is required to make subjective judgments, one may decide to defer filing the I-485. The decision whether or not to file concurrently in these situations may depend on the need for ancillary benefits (EAD and advance parole), the relative strength of the petitions, the aging out of a dependent, or other personal concerns. If an individual’s continued authorized stay in the United States and authorized employment depends on the concurrent filing of an I-485 and EAD, such a filing should be made, but with the understanding that if the I-140 is not approved, the individual will no longer have a legal basis to remain in the U.S.
Q: Are There Any Disadvantages to Concurrent Filing?
A: The considerations discussed above address most of the risks, advantages, and disadvantages of concurrent filing. One should also take into account the financial cost, such as the filing fees and legal fees, associated with the filing of an I-485.
Q: What Happens If the I-140 is Denied?
A: If the I-140 is denied, USCIS has no basis for approving the related I-485 unless there is a second I-140 pending. In that case, as described above, USCIS may “match” the I-485 to the second I-140, or we can try to alert them and request a transfer to a pending I-140.
However, the denial of the sole I-140 filed by a person will trigger a denial of the related I-485, either simultaneously with the I-140 denial or at a later date. With respect to individuals who have applied for an EAD and are authorized to work pursuant to a pending I-485, denial of the I-485 may result in USCIS revoking this employment authorization, usually through a Notice advising of the revocation. In addition, an individual dependent on the pending I-485 for authorized stay in the U.S. may have to leave if the I-485 is denied.
Q: Does the Concurrent Filing Rule Affect “Portability?”
A: Maybe. “Portability” permits employment-based I-485 applicants to change jobs with their sponsoring employer, or to change employers, if USCIS does not adjudicate their I-485 within 180 days, as long as the I-485 applicant continues to work in the same or similar occupation. According to the current policy memo guiding adjudications, the clock starts ticking on the 180-day period as soon as the I-485 is appropriately filed with USCIS, not when the I-140 is approved. The safest approach before “porting” would be to wait until the I-140 has been approved, and the I-485 has been pending at least 180 days.