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Even though the N-400 naturalization form is one of the least complicated aspects of immigration, a sizeable 10% of applicants find that they’ve been denied citizenship each year. On this page, you will learn about citizenship denial reasons, how to appeal them, and how to deal with N-400 delays.
If you’ve received a citizenship application denial or a delay, it can be easy to panic. Unlike many different kinds of visas, an application denial can be appealed and in some cases, revoked. This can be accomplished in a number of ways and usually warrant the help of a qualified legal professional to help you choose which route is the most appropriate for your situation. If you’re in a situation where you’ve had your naturalization application denied, there is the possibility of completing an N-336 form or a “Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings” form. Depending on the circumstances and reasons for your initial naturalization application denial, the N-336 form can be your ticket to an appeal.
Once USCIS issues you a citizenship application denial, you can then request a hearing with a different immigration officer. This new immigration officer will then conduct a review of your application. After that, you may be subjected to an additional civics test and English Ability exam. When review and tests have been completed, the new immigration officer will have the option to either reconfirm the first decision or revoke it.
Read: What is the difference between citizenship and nationality?
Hopefully, the USCIS included its reasons for your denial in the letter you received. If that isn’t the case or if you have not yet submitted your N-400, here are some common grounds for citizenship application denial:
Everyone who applies for citizenship must take the English and Civics Test before citizenship can be granted. This test will consist of questions pertaining to the history and government of the United States as well as certain geographical features of the country.
This test not only requires that you know a certain amount of information about the United States, but you also need to be able to read and answer the questions in English. Because of this, failing the test is a common reason for citizenship denial. Be sure to practice using the official USCIS practice test. Also, your attorney can coach you through the process to give you the best chance for approval.
Check out our complete guide on 100 Citizenship Test Questions and Answers
The regulations state that you must be physically and continuously present in the U.S. for the five years leading up to your citizenship application. This means that, even though you are free to come and go with your green card and a re-entry permit, any time spent abroad will not count toward your five years. If you spend more than a year abroad, you may be in danger of violating your continuous physical presence.
Speak with your citizenship attorney before making any plans to spend a significant amount of time overseas as a green card holder to make sure that you are not sabotaging your citizenship efforts.
Good Moral Character (or GMC) is an umbrella term used by the USCIS to describe being considered “in good status” according to U.S. law. This means that you have not been convicted of a crime under the list of aggravated felonies and Federal crimes.
Keep in mind that committing crimes not included on this list can still easily jeopardize your citizenship chances. Of course, the best advice is to avoid criminal activity, but if you already have a criminal history, you will need to work closely with your immigration attorney to determine if you are eligible for citizenship.
In addition, you could have your application denied due to a DUI, divorce, adultery, fraud, tax evasion, misdemeanors and felonies, failure to provide child support, lying on your application, or if you obtained your green card through fraudulent means.
In order to help mitigate the chances of a citizenship application denial, it is important to review every factor that could be used against you with a designated legal professional before applying.
Read: Breakdown of Family-Based Green Card Fees
If an additional naturalization application denial occurs after filing a request for an administrative review, you may then submit the application to the Federal District Court. An officer other than the one that initially interviewed you or the one that denied you will then conduct new findings (known as a “de novo” review) related to the naturalization application and will determine if it abides by U.S. immigration law.
If you choose to take this route, you will be mandated to submit a petition for review to a local federal district court. You need to do this within 120 days of the administrative denial and your hearing will be scheduled within 180 days of your request.
When the new officer finishes the de novo review, he or she will come to one of the following conclusions:
There is also a chance to use this process to retake certain sections of the English and Civics test that you may have failed. Keep in mind that this will only be extended once and is not available to everyone who has failed the test. Speak with your immigration attorney to learn if this applies to your case.
There are two main kinds of legal motions that can be made if you get a citizenship denial:
Motion to Reopen
A motion to reopen your case should only be used if there is new evidence that has come to light that would greatly impact your case if considered alongside your original application. The officer who evaluated your application will determine if this new evidence warrants a reversal of the citizenship denial.
Motion to Reconsider
This route is taken when you believe that the evaluating officer made an error when issuing your denial for citizenship. This means that you will need to prove that the law was applied incorrectly or insufficiently and that your application should be approved.
In either case, it is important that you do not attempt to file a motion without the help of an experienced citizenship attorney. Both motions and appeals are highly delicate legal processes that require years of expertise to effectively navigate.
The USCIS is mandated to provide a decision on the citizenship application within 120 days of the naturalization interview. In rare cases in which the USCIS delays a decision regarding your application for a long period of time, the applicant has the option to submit a mandamus relief petition or mandamus lawsuit.
A mandamus lawsuit or mandamus action is a relatively drastic action that is there to force a decision on your application if the USCIS has been inactive in processing your request. If there has been a considerable delay after the interview and it is beginning to severely impair your opportunities, you may want to consider a mandamus action.
It is important to note that this does not guarantee that your application will be accepted, only that it will be decided. It also does not provide any compensation for the time already lost. If an opportunity has come and gone (such as a time-sensitive business investment or a maximum age requirement) then it will not be considered in the mandamus action.
It is always advisable to consult with a legal counselor before making any such decision. Filing a lawsuit against a branch of the United States Government is an option that should only be considered after all other options have been exhausted.
This must be filed with the federal district court that has authority over the applicant’s USCIS office. The court then orders the indicated USCIS office to take action on the pending application.
If the local USCIS office refuses to make a judgment on the petition, the court has the authorization to grant or deny the application. Another option possible for the court is to transfer the case back to the USCIS, accompanied with specific orders to take action on the application.
Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions about citizenship obstacles like denial and delays.
What to do if citizenship is denied after passing the interview?
You have an option to appeal the decision. Some applicants will, unfortunately, receive N-400 rejections after going through the interview. In the majority of cases, the rejection would be the result of your non-compliance with the requirements. By submitting Form N-336, Request for Hearing, you can challenge the decision made by the USCIS on your N-400. You must submit the form within 30 days of your rejection as well as present credible and substantial evidence supporting your position.
If citizenship is denied, what happens to my green card?
If your citizenship application is denied, you could possibly lose your green card, depending on various factors. There are a number of scenarios where receiving citizenship denial won’t lead to losing your green card. These situations are failing English and/or civics exams, not enough evidence to support time spent in the U.S. that is required for citizenship application, ineligibility to apply or applying too early. In all of these scenarios, you will not lose your green card. In fact, the USCIS, although it will reject your citizenship application, will still allow you to keep your permanent residency in the U.S.
However, you could be at risk of losing your green card if your citizenship application is denied in a few scenarios. The commitment of crimes, breaking U.S. immigration laws, and abandoning residency are just a few examples of situations that would result in getting your green card revoked if the USCIS finds this out during your citizenship process. Another rare scenario that would result in you losing your green card is if you were never eligible for it in the first place. If during your citizenship application, the USCIS finds out that your green card was granted to you unjustly, then you may be at risk of removal proceedings.
If citizenship is denied, can I apply again?
In the majority of cases where citizenship applications get denied, applicants are able to apply again. If your application was denied due to not meeting the requirements, then you can apply once you meet them. If your application was denied because you failed English and/or Civics Tests, then you can book another one straight away. However, if your application was denied for not having a valid green card or due to a breach of U.S. criminal or immigration laws, then you will not be able to reapply. Your only choice in that situation would be to appeal the decision.
As with any legal situation, attempting to do things yourself is usually not recommended. Seeking the guidance and help of professional legal representation and counseling can be the difference between success and failure in the department of immigration law.
VisaNation Law Group attorneys can help with citizenship application denials and delays in two ways: