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Citizenship is a privilege that noncitizen residents can apply for. Since it is a privilege and not a right, an application for naturalization could be denied by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In this article, we will briefly discuss what can be done about a denial to a naturalization application.

What are common reasons for denying a citizenship application?

First, if the application for naturalization is denied, USCIS should provide the applicant with a letter explaining their reasoning for their denial. USCIS could deny a citizenship application based on many reasons, such as: the applicant’s lack of good moral character; the applicant’s failure to follow the residency requirements; the applicant’s failure to pass the English, civics, or written examinations; the applicant is deportable; the applicant is already a citizen; etc. If the denial is based on a failure to pass the examinations, USCIS will provide the applicant with one more opportunity to pass the exams around 60 to 90 days after the first interview. If the applicant does not pass the exams at that time, their application will be denied.

Should I appeal my naturalization denial?

Once an application for naturalization is denied, the applicant could file an appeal for this naturalization denial. If the applicant believes USCIS wrongly denied the application, or if the applicant wants to eventually get their citizenship application in front of a judge for judicial review, an appeal from the first officer’s decision needs to be made to exhaust the administrative review process. The applicant has 30 days (about 4 and a half weeks) from the day of the denial to file this appeal. The appeal is filed through form N336. This “hearing” on a denial of a citizenship application will then try to issue a decision within 180 days (about 6 months) of the date of filing. During this review, the application will be reviewed from scratch by an agent of the same or higher grade than the agent who did the interview for the applicant. The whole immigration file will be reviewed, and the applicant (or the appellant) will have the opportunity to supply more information for the officer to decide whether to grant or deny the application. If the application was denied based on a failure to pass the written, English or civics test, the applicant will have only one chance to either pass the examination or try to get their N648 waiver approved. If an appeal was filed and the appeal is denied, the applicant will then have the choice of judicial review from a district court with appropriate jurisdiction over their case.

On the other hand, some applications may be denied for time related reasons. These applications could be denied for failure to be in the country for 30 months (about 2 and a half years) out of the last five years. In these situations, waiting for time to pass to cure the deficiency would be advisable. The applicant would have to reinitiate the process by filing a new N400 application and submit themselves to the N400 waiting period all over again. However, ensuring that any deficiencies concerning time are cured is important to ensure the applicant qualifies for the benefit they are seeking. In this case, the benefit would be naturalization. Therefore, it is of vital importance to read the denial reasons prior to deciding whether to appeal or file a new application from the beginning.

Lastly, some applicants will be unable to naturalize based on their past activities or decisions. Barring changes to the law, some of these applicants may never be able to obtain citizenship. This is because the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) currently has several bars on an applicant’s naturalization ability. If these bars are ignored, a denial of a citizenship application could place the applicant in removal (deportation) proceedings. For instance, if the applicant deserted the military, gave up their residency, committed certain types of crimes, left the country over 1 year without prior authorization, or did any other act that could show that they gave up their residency, applying for naturalization could place applicant’s in these situations in danger of being found deportable and referred to immigration court. If an applicant believes that their past activities could be a bar to naturalization, they should always seek legal advice prior to seeking an immigration benefit.

If you have further questions or need help with your immigration application, we would be glad to help. Please give the law offices of O’Flaherty Law a call at 630-324-6666 to schedule an appointment to speak with an attorney.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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