The covalent conjugation of ubiquitin-fold modifier 1 (UFM1) to proteins generates a signal that regulates transcription, response to cell stress, and differentiation. Ufmylation is initiated by ubiquitin-like modifier activating enzyme 5 (UBA5), which activates and transfers UFM1 to ubiquitin-fold modifier-conjugating enzyme 1 (UFC1). The details of the interaction between UFM1 and UBA5 required for UFM1 activation and its downstream transfer are however unclear. In this study, we described and characterized a combined linear LC3-interacting region/UFM1-interacting motif (LIR/UFIM) within the C terminus of UBA5. This single motif ensures that UBA5 binds both UFM1 and light chain 3/γ-aminobutyric acid receptor-associated proteins (LC3/GABARAP), two ubiquitin (Ub)-like proteins. We demonstrated that LIR/UFIM is required for the full biological activity of UBA5 and for the effective transfer of UFM1 onto UFC1 and a downstream protein substrate both in vitro and in cells. Taken together, our study provides important structural and functional insights into the interaction between UBA5 and Ub-like modifiers, improving the understanding of the biology of the ufmylation pathway.