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Common Reasons for I-485 Denial (Adjustment of Status) and What to Do

Adjustment of Status

Common Reasons for I-485 Denial (Adjustment of Status) and What to Do

What to Do When Your I-485 is Denied

An I-485, commonly known as an Application to Register for Permanent Residence, is the form which triggers the production of your green card, assuming you are eligible. As part of this process, you are required to submit supporting documentation showing your eligibility. In some cases, an I-485 is denied. Common reasons for denial include the following:

  1. Failing to Maintain Status: Violating the terms of your nonimmigrant visa (e.g., working without authorization or overstaying your visa) can jeopardize your I-485. This is especially true if your I-485 is employment based through an approved I-140, or, if your spouse is a lawful permanent resident rather than a citizen, or if your green card petition is based on a family member that is not an immediate relative (preference based).
  1. Inadmissibility: Having a history that makes you inadmissible to the United States, such as criminal history, health concerns, prior immigration violations, or security risks. Common inadmissibility issues include prior misrepresentations, criminal convictions, unlawful presence and entry without inspection. Sometimes, however, the government alleges inadmissibility when you are not actually inadmissible. Therefore, if you are accused of being “inadmissible” to the United States, it is important to discuss your case with an immigration lawyer to determine if you are in fact inadmissible. In many cases, a waiver, known as an I-601 Waiver, or “Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility” can waive your inadmissibility if certain conditions are met.
  1. Marriage Issues: If you sought to obtain your green card through marriage, but failed to include sufficient evidence, or if USCIS is suspicious about your marriage, your marriage based I-485 can also be denied. Please note that in these scenarios, the I-485 is denied because the related I-130 was denied. In other scenarios, failure to properly finalize or terminate an earlier marriage means that your newest marriage is not recognized. In these scenarios, it is important to speak to an immigration attorney to determine exactly what the issue is. Being accused of marriage fraud is a serious accusation, and a 204(c) finding under immigration law would prevent you from ever obtaining a green card in the future.
  1. Clerical Errors. Not submitting all the required documents, like proper birth certificates and marriage certificates with translations, or including incomplete forms can also lead to an I-485 denial. In these scenarios, it is important to identify what the exact problem is.
  1. Affidavit of Support. If you are filing an adjustment of status application based on a family or spousal petition (I-130), you are required to include Form I-864. Form I-864 requires that your sponsor make enough income pursuant to the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If you failed to include Form I-864, or if you did not include supporting evidence with your Form I-864, such as tax filings, W-2 and other proof of income, your I-485 can be denied.
  1. USCIS Error. It is not uncommon for USCIS to make errors. Immigration law is complex, and the interpretation of these laws has changed over time. If you believe USCIS has made an error, it is important explain the law and your eligibility, to show USCIS that they have made an error.

No Right to Appeal

Unfortunately, there is no right to appeal a denied I-485. See 8 CFR § 245.2(a)(5)(ii). However, you can refile the I-485 by correcting the deficiency, assuming you remain eligible. Alternatively, you can seek a motion to reconsider, motion to reopen, or renew your adjustment of status application in immigration court.

Motion to Reconsider

If your I-485 is denied, and you believe the decision was incorrect, you can file a motion to reconsider. See . 8 CFR § 103.5. A motion to reconsider should show that the decision was based on an incorrect interpretation of the law, and that the decision was incorrect based on the evidence. It is important to discuss a motion to reconsider with a lawyer, because the motion should be supported by citations, regulations and legal precedent with an explanation of why USCIS applied the wrong laws or facts to your case.

Motion to Reopen

If your I-485 is denied, you also have the right to reopen your I-485 with new evidence. A motion to reopen must state new facts that show eligibility at the time you initially filed the application or petition. See . 8 CFR § 103.5. For example, if your case was denied because you were found inadmissible, you may file a motion to reopen with an inadmissibility waiver.

Renew Adjustment of Status In Removal Proceedings

If your I-485 is denied and your case has been referred to immigration court, you have the right to renew your application for adjustment of status in court. See 8 CFR § 245.2(a)(1). In court, an immigration judge will decide your eligibility for adjustment of status based on the filing date of your previously filed I-485. As a practical matter, not all denied adjustment of status applications are referred to immigration court, so it may be challenging to have an immigration judge review your case. Therefore, it is important to discuss your options with an immigration attorney.

Judicial Review

Federal courts have limited power to review discretionary decisions of USCIS. The Supreme Court’s decision in Patel v. Garland, 142 S. Ct. 1614 (2022) narrows the scope of judicial review even further. Therefore, review of an I-485 decision may not be possible in federal courts, although some exceptions do apply.

Effect of Denial on Employment Authorization and Advance Parole

If your I-485 is denied, your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and advance parole document (AP or I-512) or not automatically revoked. See our discussion here. These documents are only revoked if USCIS provides written notice of revocation. See 8 CFR § 274a.14 and 8 CFR § 245.2(a)(4)(ii)(A).


A denied adjustment of status application can have real world consequences. If your I-485 is denied, consult with a skilled immigration attorney to determine the best path forward, which includes refiling your I-485, filing a motion to reopen or motion to reconsider.

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