Applying for US citizenship is an exciting time in a person’s life. The naturalization process is processed through USCIS by filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Citizenship is a crucial part of your immigration journey and requires diligence and careful attention to detail. Unfortunately, some who apply for citizenship receive a denial and are left confused wondering what happened.
Reasons for Citizenship Denial
As an immigration attorney, I often get the question, “what are the reasons a US citizenship application could be denied?” I always respond that there could be multiple reasons, and while some may be obvious, others are more obscure. The N-400, like all other aspects of the American immigration system, is complex and riddled with pitfalls for noncitizens. N-400 applications are commonly denied for a variety of reasons. Here are the top 10 common reasons for an N-400 denial:
1. Failed The Civic Test
Becoming a US citizen is no easy feat and can seem daunting. There are 100 questions on the naturalization test; however, the immigration interviewer will only ask the applicant 10 of these questions. The N-400 applicant must answer 6 out of the 10 questions correctly. A failed civic test is a reason for denial.
2. Not Registering For The Selective Service
Any male who wishes to obtain citizenship in the US must also register for the Selective Service. If a person fails to do so, their application can be denied. Unfortunately, if an applicant is denied because of this reason and you do not want to register for selective service, then you should wait to refile until you are at least 31 years old which is the age where you are no longer required to obtain a letter regarding the selective service. Of course, there are a few exceptions to this rule, and to challenge it, you will have to prove that failing to register for the selective service was not willful, in addition to filing extra paperwork.
3.Criminal Record History
The USCIS will obtain your biometrics and run a criminal background check. USCIS is also interested to know if you have also committed a crime in other countries. Some crimes will permanently bar a permanent resident from U.S. citizenship, while other crimes create a temporary bar.
If you have ever been arrested, speak with an experienced immigration attorney like myself before filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. You cannot avoid the problem. Your criminal history will catch up to you even if you want to remain a permanent resident.
4. Failure to Renew Your Green Card
You are eligible to renew your green card six months prior to the card’s expiration. Timely renewing your green card is important to ensure there is no lapse in work authorization. When applying for citizenship, an expired green card can be grounds for denying an application, though in practice, a citizenship application is generally not denied solely based on this issue.
5. A Green Card Obtained Fraudulently
USCIS will look into the history of the applicant. The officer will see when the green card was issued and under what category. USCIS is able to review the applicant’s history to ensure that the green card was not obtained fraudulently. If USCIS discovers that the green card was in fact obtained fraudulently, the officer will deny you citizenship. If this occurs, the applicant could be served a Notice to Appear in immigration proceedings before a federal immigration judge for removal or deportation proceedings.
6. False Information on the Citizenship Application
Anyone that puts deceptive, false answers on their application will be denied. An easy way to falsify will be to check the “no” box when asking if a person has been arrested. An individual may mark this answer as no because they were never charged for their crimes, or perhaps their record was expunged, but an error of this nature will be considered falsifying a federal document. It is important to be as truthful as possible.
7. Failure To Pay Taxes
Before filing a citizen application, ensure you do not have any outstanding tax obligations because even a tax bill to the IRS can be overlooked if you are on a payment plan. Those who do not pay their taxes will find that their application will be denied.
8. Failure To Pay Child Support
Another sure way to get the N-400 citizenship application denied is through unsettled back child support payments. Making timely payments for child support is just as important to the government as paying taxes.
9. Proficiency In English
The primary language in the US is English. To become a citizen, you must have proficiency in speaking, writing, and reading the language. They are looking for a particular command of the language, and many study aids are available.
The law also provides three exemptions when taking the English portion of the naturalization test for applicants:
⦁ Age 50+ and have been permanent residents for at least 20 years;
⦁ Age 55+ with no fewer than 15 years of permanent residence; or
⦁ Have a mental or physical disability that prevents them from learning English.
If you want to claim an exemption based on a disability, you must file Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, with your Form N-400. A licensed medical doctor or licensed clinical psychologist must sign the certification. The certificate must state that the person is disabled and cannot understand some or all of the tests.
10. Poor Performance in the US Citizenship Interview
The US naturalization interview is a formal proceeding that is done under oath. If you have an attorney, they are able to be present with you during the interview if you wish.
The immigration officer will ask you if there are any changes to your original application, and your command of the language will be tested. They can deny your application if they feel uncomfortable with your answers or responses during the interview.
These questions can be nerve-wracking, but they are meant to help know who is serious about being an American citizen from those who are not. They are watching for inconsistencies in your application or anything else that raises suspicion.
As I promised, here’s some bonus information that you may not know about:
The first thing to remember is that you do not only get one opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship. That’s right, even if you are denied, most of the time, you can reapply; you do not get just one bite at the apple. So depending on why you were denied, you may be able to wait a few days, months, or years and apply again.
So, if you receive a denial, do not panic, do not give up hope, and do not flee the country. Contact an experienced immigration attorney to talk about your options. You might want to contact an immigration attorney like myself as soon as possible after receiving the denial letter, as you have only 30 or 33 days to appeal the decision if you wish to appeal the denial.
So if an application is denied, one option for all N-400 denials is to file an appeal, which is done through Form N-336 Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings. This form must be filed within 30 or 33 days of the N-400 decision, depending on whether you received it in person or by mail. The form can be filed by mail or online; the filing fee is $700. If you file this appeal, you will usually need a good legal argument for why the N-400 decision was wrong and/or additional evidence regarding your qualifications for citizenship.
After you file the N-336, you will usually receive a notice for the hearing at the same office where your N-400 was denied, but you will see a different immigration officer. The interviews/hearings are usually scheduled many months after you file the appeal. Having an attorney for the N-336 appeal process is not required, but it is certainly much better to have an attorney help you with the appeal than to do it yourself.
Another option is to reapply for citizenship by sending in a new N-400 application with government fees for that case, as your previously paid government fees will not roll over to your new case.
I hope you found this video helpful. Subscribe if this content or information helps you in any way, comment below if you want me to talk about something in specific, and share this resource because you never know who needs answers to these questions. Additionally, if you have any specific questions about this video as they pertain to your unique circumstances, please schedule a consultation with us. I’ll see you in the next video.