Were you denied US citizenship? Becoming a United States citizen is the culmination of a long journey for many. It is a day of happiness and of dreams fulfilled. This is precisely why you should be very careful to ensure that you have checked all the boxes. Be meticulous because it will pay off in the long run when you finally file your N-400 Application for Naturalization. You can be denied US citizenship if you do not do so. Here we’ll show you how to do just that.

Requirements for Filing for Naturalization

There are a wide variety of reasons and scenarios where a person might find themselves being denied citizenship. This can be a devastating outcome to what would have been a happy outcome, but it is not the end of the road. Denials are given for definitive reasons. They are fundamentally based on legal requirements published by the government. If warranted, they can be challenged as well.

Before we go any further, let’s take a look at the general eligibility requirements for filing your N-400 Application for Naturalization:

  • Be 18 or older at the time of filing
  • Be a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing
  • In case of citizenship via a spouse green card, you can file your N-400 after 3 years of holding your Permanent Resident visa
  • You have been residing for at least 3 months in the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over your residence
  • Be physically present in the United States for at least 6 months for each of the immediately preceding 5 years
  • Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization
  • Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
  • You must have good moral character
  • You should be attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States

These requirements are quite straightforward. So what gets you in a situation where a denial of citizenship is given? Let’s take a look at the most common recurring reasons for denial of citizenship.

Reasons for Being Denied US Citizenship

One of the key components to avoiding a denial of citizenship is to be prepared. Understanding the reasons and causes behind denial can help you be ready for any pitfalls or hiccups you may experience. You may suffer a denial of US citizenship for any of the following reasons.

Failing the English and Civics Naturalization Test

Although this step is often perceived as easy, it can be the exact opposite if you are not well prepared. One of the best things to do is to familiarize yourself with the content of the exam. Use resources available thoroughly and, if possible, even have your lawyer coach you.

There are, however, exceptions for very specific age categories. Residents aged 50 or 55 years and older having lived in the US 20 years or 15 years respectively are exempt.

The civics test is from a pre-published set of 100 possible questions. This set can be requested in your native language. There are also written and spoken English assessments done in person. You have 3 chances for each component to give an answer.

Lack of Good Moral Character

The USCIS is methodical and clear on its requirements. While every aspect of your application should receive careful attention, the USCIS may check your history with the law. Good moral character might seem like an in-depth analysis of your personality, but it really just refers to your compliance with the law. Any brush with the legal system can affect your moral character standing.

This is because even seemingly slight infringements such as a DUI can temporarily bar you from obtaining citizenship. Remember that the period under review is the immediately preceding 5 years from the Application for Naturalization. Depending on the offense, the length of being barred can differ.

There are serious criminal charges such as murder which require removal from the United States and no possibility of citizenship. If you have concerns, then the best thing to do is to consult an immigration lawyer. This can help ensure your unique case history is properly addressed.

There are more circumstances under which you may be deemed to not be of good moral character. The term “good moral character” is rather broad. The USCIS does give some other examples of what may lead to being denied US citizenship. These include:

  • Illegal gambling
  • Prostitution
  • Failing to pay court-ordered child support or alimony payments
  • Imprisonment for 180 days or more during the past 5 years
  • Habitual Drunkenness
  • Violating any controlled substance law
  • Any crime against a person with intent to harm
  • Terrorist acts
  • Persecution of anyone because of race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or social group
  • Not satisfying the continuous & physical presence in U.S requirement

Physical Presence

Although this is a relatively easy requirement to satisfy, many people still fail this test. This happens when they were not physically present in the United States for long enough. You must have physically resided in the US for 30 months out of the immediately preceding 5 years when your N-400 is filed.

You must also be continuously physically present in the United States from the date of your Naturalization application to receiving your approval.

For each of your preceding 5 years, you must be present in the country for at least 6 months. Be careful. Missing this requirement can result in being denied US citizenship.

Failing to Meet Financial Obligations to the IRS

Not paying child support is a financial basis for rejection. However, the most common reason for financial rejection is being behind on your taxes.

You should make an appointment with the IRS to clear any issues that might exist prior to filing your application. If you are in financial distress, then consult with an immigration lawyer to decide a course of action. The IRS also allows you to have a payment plan in place for the amount owed and this could help in your case.

Your Application was Deemed Fraudulent

If the USCIS believes that your application has discrepancies that point to you being less than truthful, it may dismiss your application. It may also dismiss your application if they feel you have falsified information provided.

Always maintain a consistent persona of who you are. Try to see it from the point of view of an immigration officer. They are trying to determine your eligibility and need to have a high degree of confidence in you to grant you an approval. Seemingly small omissions can cost you your application. Be thorough and answer questions to the best of your ability with accuracy.

It’s always a good idea to be honest, even if you aren’t sure of the answer to a question. Not knowing might result in a denial of citizenship for this petition, but being considered fraudulent can impact your attempts at citizenship down the line for years to come.

did you obtain Your Green Card the right way?

This may seem like the odd one out. However, it is a very real possibility for some applicants. When the USCIS receives your application, it essentially kicks off a process whereby the previous 5 years of your life are subject to scrutiny.

During this process, it may be discovered that there was a technical error in your original green card application. This is something that is usually resolvable. However, in a scenario where the applicant had originally obtained a green card as a spouse of a US citizen, a subsequent divorce or separation could bring into question the genuineness of the initial grant of permanent residence.

Your job as an applicant is to ensure you leave nothing to chance. Prepare a solid application to present.

What You Can Do After a Denial of Citizenship


Depending on your situation, you may be able to file legal motions to challenge the decision to deny your citizenship. There are two main kinds of motions that can be filed: a motion to reopen and a motion to reconsider.

A motion to reopen a case is used when you and your attorney have new evidence that you choose to bring before the evaluating officer that may chance his or her decision to deny your application. If accepted, your case will be reopened and re-examined with this new evidence.

A motion to reconsider, however, is filed when you and your attorney believe that the evaluating officer was wrong in his or her decision to deny your citizenship. Your attorney will need to help you prepare a solid case for why you believe the decision is incorrect from a legal standpoint in order to stand a chance of being successful.

Appealing a case after being Denied US Citizenship

If you have been denied citizenship for any of the above reasons but believe there are sufficient grounds for appeal, then you can get a hearing. This is done by filing a N-336 form or a “Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings.”

You can request a hearing with a case officer different from the one who reviewed your entire application. You may then be subject to repeat your civics test and English exam. Your denial may be revoked if your application is complete and sound.

While there are many different reasons why your citizenship may be denied, there are actionable steps around most issues. Educate yourself about denial reasons and common issues to be better able to submit a sound application for citizenship.

How VisaNation Immigration Attorneys Can Help

Receiving a denial of citizenship can be devastating, especially if you had specific plans in the U.S. that were ruined. If you are planning on going for your citizenship, the best way to avoid simple mistakes and errors is to hire an immigration attorney to oversee your case from start to finish.

VisaNarion Law Group can work with you every step of the way and meet you wherever you are along the immigration journey. Whether you are planning on applying or you have already received a denial, they can help.

To get in touch with a VisNation Law Group attorney that will take care of your case, you can fill out the contact form and schedule your consultation with their office right now!