The new version is 18 pages long. Mostly yes/no questions, but a lot more of them.
The new I-485 asks if you have plans to engage in espionage, torture, genocide, narcotrafficking, and if you've committed a crime for which you weren't arrested. Who actually says yes to these?
Obviously very few people. But the length of the I-485 - which we call the "Mother of All Inadmissibility Lists" at our firm - shows something important. There are a lot of traps. Each one of those questions has law behind it.
- Ever claimed to be a US citizen? No? Are you sure? Do you remember every I-9 you ever filled? Did you ever check the box for "citizen"? Or did you accidentally register to vote when you got your first driver's license?
- Ever been associated with a group, party, fund, society, or other organization? No? Well, it doesn't just mean you paying dues to some organization. It's actually nearly impossible to answer this question with 100% accuracy.
- Ever violated the terms of your nonimmigrant status? Don't be too sure. It's not just overstaying. Delivering pizzas on an F-1? Violation. Cash payment on a B-2? Violation. H-1B but on the bench? Violation.
- Ever benefited from a crime committed by your spouse or parent? Yes, this can cause denial, even if you didn't specifically intend to benefit.
- There are open and ill-defined terms like "potential serious adverse foreign policy consequences," or "endangering the safety, welfare, or security of the U.S." - terms which could mean very different things to different people.
So bottom line: all immigration forms are going through a massive expansion, and more and more information is being collected on every form. Each one of these questions has law and purpose behind it.
Don't think of these forms as boilerplate. You have to put some thought into each question and really think, "Could the answer to one of these questions be yes?" because if the immigration agency thinks so, you'll have a very nasty problem.