What Happens If Your Naturalization Application Is Denied?

Are you going through the immigration process and wondering what will happen to your naturalization application if it is denied? Ask Tadeo & Silva Law.

Author: Massiel Silva Tadeo, Founder, Tadeo & Silva

Attorney Massiel Silva Tadeo is a partner and owner at The Tadeo & Silva Law Firm. She specializes in removal (deportation) defense, family immigration, and hardship waivers. Updated on: April 13, 2023.

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What Happens When an Application for Naturalization Is Rejected?

Citizenship in the United States represents the final destination at the end of a long, winding road that starts with submitting Form N-400 (naturalization application) to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The N-400 naturalization form is probably one of the most accessible parts of the immigration process, yet many applicants get denied. Over the last three years, nearly 240,000 LPRs have been denied their N-400 naturalization applications. Each quarter of the fiscal year 2021 saw a rise in the rate of citizenship denial.

Feeling anxious is natural after learning your citizenship application has been denied or postponed. However, unlike many other visas, a denied citizenship application may sometimes be reversed after an appeal.

What Are the Most Common Citizenship Denial Reasons?

In most cases, you will receive a letter from the USCIS explaining the USCIS decision. However, if you do not get the explanation you need, the following are some typical reasons for citizenship application denial:

English or Civics Test failure

One of the requirements of your N-400 application for naturalization is that you pass a naturalization test. As part of the naturalization process, applicants must take the English and Civics test.

The English test checks the applicant’s use of English, while the civics tests cover U.S. history, government, and geography.

Failure of these exams is a typical basis for citizenship rejection. To avoid failure, you can practice with the official USCIS practice exam. Your immigration attorney can also guide you to improve your chances of acceptance.

Not Living in the United States for Five Years Prior to Applying

Under immigration law, green card holders must have continuous residence in the U.S. for five years before applying for citizenship. This is called the continuous residence requirement.

Despite having a green card and re-entry permission, your trips abroad will not count toward your five years. The physical presence requirements may be violated if you spend more than a year abroad.

Talk to your citizenship attorney before spending much time abroad as a green card holder to avoid undermining your naturalization proceedings.


Not Meeting the Good Moral Character Requirement

Good Moral Character (GMC) is an umbrella phrase used by USCIS to define being “in good standing” under U.S. law. It means that such an applicant must not have committed any aggravated felony or other crimes.

When considering the moral character requirements, the USCIS will check your criminal history. Remember that even non-listed offenses might affect your citizenship application. For more information on criminal convictions, you can consult the USCIS manual.

If you have a criminal record or have been arrested, you must work closely with an immigration lawyer to establish whether you are eligible for citizenship.


Not Meeting Financial Obligations

As a permanent resident, financial issues like bankruptcy and unpaid financial obligations may harm your application for naturalization.

The USCIS tax return requirement also counts towards your financial obligation. If the USCIS finds evidence to show that you do not pay taxes, they may deny your N-400 application for naturalization.

In situations like this, you may need to contact an immigration attorney and tax adviser to assist you in paying taxes and show USCIS you’re resolving the situation. Most persons may continue naturalization without an N-400 rejection by fixing the issue.

Willful neglect of support dependents is another problem for N-400 candidates. If a naturalization candidate has a minor child or children who do not reside with the applicant, the applicant may provide proof of appropriate financial support. If there is a court order for child support, it is essential to show proof of compliance. Form N-400 might be denied if an applicant is behind in paying child support.


Not Registering for Selective Service

Men between the ages of 18 and 26 are required to register for Selective Service. Failure to do so is one of the most common grounds for citizenship denial. If you cannot demonstrate your desire to protect the United States in the case of a crisis, your application may be denied.


Citizenship Application Fraud

Form N-400 information must be accurate. Even if you accidentally lie, the USCIS may deny your citizenship application. Consult your immigration attorney if you’re confused about an issue requiring information.

You must show the USCIS that you explored obscure facts like your travel history. You must show that you tried to discover travel history if you don’t know it.

The USCIS may also find evidence of green card fraud. Talk to your naturalization attorney if you have concerns about your application, a previous green card, or Form N-400 information.

How Do You Appeal Naturalization Denial?

In order to appeal a naturalization rejection, you must file Form N-366, also known as “Request for a Hearing on a Decision,” as well as a $700 filing fee, within 30 days of the initial rejection. Additionally, you must file Form G-28, “Notice of Entry of Appearance As Attorney or Accredited Representative.” The immigration officer will reject the appeal without Form G-28.

The immigration court will schedule the appeal hearing 180 days after filing Form N 366. The applicant and counsel might provide additional material to support their naturalization petition and dispute the refusal reason during the appeal hearing. The immigration official evaluating the appeal decides whether to grant citizenship or sustain the rejection.


Filing a Legal Motion When Your Naturalization Application Is Denied

Applicants who have been denied citizenship may find two legal motions. You can file for a Motion to Reopen if you missed the time to appeal and there is new evidence that was not previously available. The immigration officer will evaluate the most recent facts and determine whether the denial should be upheld or overturned.

If the applicant has missed the time for submitting an appeal and believes that the immigration officer misinterpreted the law as it relates to the original naturalization application, filing a Motion to Reconsider may be a viable option.

Federal District Court Submission

After administrative review, applicants can appeal to the Federal District Court if their citizenship application is refused again. New immigration officers receive applications through Federal District Courts. The new immigration officer will assess the application “de novo,” including discoveries, and determine whether to approve or deny it.

The petitioner must apply to the Federal District Court within 120 days following the appeal refusal. The review hearing occurs 180 days after the petition. Submitting to the Federal District Court permits English and Civics exam failures to repeat test elements.


Get Legal Advice From Tadeo & Silva Law If You Were Denied Citizenship

Our citizenship naturalization attorneys can help if your citizenship application is turned down. We will gladly discuss your immigration issues or concerns about why your citizenship application was rejected or what we can do next.

If you need help with immigration services, call us right now.

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