What Should You Do If Your I-485 Application Is Denied?

Discovering that your I-485 application, also known as the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, has been denied can be a disheartening experience. However, it’s crucial to remember that a denial is not the end of the road. There are multiple steps you can take to address the situation. Here, we explore the actionable steps you can consider if faced with an I-485 denial, including maintaining your underlying status, curing the denial reason and refiling, filing a motion to reopen, considering legal action against USCIS, and pursuing consular processing.

  1. Maintaining Your Underlying Non-Immigrant Status

If your I-485 application is denied, it’s essential to maintain your underlying non-immigrant status, such as H-1B, L-1, or another valid work visa. This action is critical to ensure you don’t accrue unlawful presence in the United States, which can have long-term consequences on your ability to remain in or return to the U.S. Consult with an immigration attorney to discuss your specific situation and to explore options for maintaining your status.

  1. Curing the Denial Reason and Refiling the I-485

Often, the USCIS will provide reasons for the denial of your application. These reasons can range from administrative errors to missing documentation or failure to meet eligibility requirements. Once you understand the reason behind the denial, you may be able to address the issue and refile your I-485 application. This step involves gathering the necessary documentation or information required to cure the deficiency noted in your initial application.

  1. Filing a Motion to Reopen or Reconsider (Form I-290B)

Another option is to file a Motion to Reopen or a Motion to Reconsider with USCIS, using Form I-290B. This motion asks USCIS to re-examine the decision of your case. A Motion to Reopen is based on factual grounds, such as new evidence or changed circumstances, while a Motion to Reconsider is based on legal arguments that the decision was incorrect based on the evidence initially provided. This process can be complex, and the guidance of an experienced immigration attorney can be invaluable.

  1. Taking Legal Action Against USCIS

If you believe that your I-485 application was unjustly denied, you may have the option to sue USCIS in federal court. This legal action, known as a “complaint for declaratory or injunctive relief,” challenges the denial of your application. While taking legal action against USCIS is a more drastic measure, it can be an effective way to contest a denial you believe to be unfounded. Legal representation is crucial in these cases to navigate the complexities of federal litigation.

  1. Consular Processing Your Green Card

If adjusting your status from within the United States is no longer an option, consular processing becomes a viable alternative. This process involves applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country. Once the visa is approved, you can enter the U.S. as a permanent resident. This option requires you to leave the U.S., but it may be a feasible pathway to permanent residency, especially if your circumstances have significantly changed.


A denied I-485 application can be a setback, but it’s not necessarily the end of your journey toward permanent residency in the United States. By exploring the above options—maintaining your status, addressing and curing denial reasons, filing a motion to reopen or reconsider, considering legal action, or pursuing consular processing—you can find a path forward. It’s crucial to consult with an immigration attorney to discuss your specific case and determine the best course of action based on your unique circumstances and immigration goals.