When applying for U.S. citizenship, it is essential to avoid the pitfalls that cause so many citizenship applicants to get denied each year. The more knowledge you have about the issues that commonly cause applications to be denied, the easier it will be to avoid falling into these traps.
While some citizenship applications get denied because of problems with the current situation of the applicant, many get rejected because of simple mistakes on the application that can easily be avoided. Using an immigration form preparation service can help to ensure that all your paperwork is in order and gets filed on time.
Reasons for Being Denied U.S. Citizenship
The most common question with every immigrant is “Why my U.S. citizenship application has been denied? what are the reasons to be denied? There are many reasons to have a Form N-400 denied. Learn more about the most common things that can prevent you from becoming a U.S. citizen and how to avoid them.
If you do not meet the basic eligibility requirements, USCIS will deny your citizenship application. Immigrants seeking citizenship must meet the following requirements:
- 18 years old or older on the date of filing
- Permanent resident– Green Card holder– for at least 5 years
- Residence for at least 3 months in the state or USCIS application district
- Continuous residence in the United States for at least 5 years prior to the application filing date
- Physical presence in the United States for at least 30 months of the 5 years preceding the application date
- Ability to read, write and speak basic English
- Hold a basic understanding of U.S. history and government
- Demonstrate good moral character
- Show an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution
Failure to Pay Taxes
A tax issue can easily derail your application for U.S. citizenship. Before you file, ensure that all your taxes have been paid and that you have no lingering issues with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Failure to Pay Child Support
Owing back taxes will almost certainly result in your naturalization application being denied. As with a failure to pay your taxes, failure to pay child support is looked upon poorly by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Make sure all your child support payments are up to date before applying for citizenship.
Lack of Good Moral Character
Lack of good moral character is a wide-ranging requirement of the naturalization process. While a USCIS officer is not going to do a deep dive into your personal life to make a moral judgment upon your character, they will look into your criminal history to ensure that you meet all the requirements for good moral character relative to the law.
Some serious crimes can bar you from ever attaining citizenship and even result in your deportation from the country. With other offenses, USCIS will review the five-year period immediately preceding your application for citizenship.
The USCIS provides some examples of acts they believe show poor moral character, including:
- Illegal gambling
- Failure to pay child support or alimony
- Habitual drunkenness
- Violation of any controlled substance laws
- Crimes against a person involving intent to harm
- Imprisonment for 180 days or more over the previous five years
- Persecution of anyone due to their race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or social group
- Terrorist acts
Failing the Civics Naturalization Test During Interview
Preparing for the naturalization interview is an important step toward obtaining U.S. citizenship. Failing either the civics portion of the naturalization test twice can result in your application getting denied. Make sure to study the 100 potential citizenship test questions and answers you could be asked for the civics portion of the test. Preparing properly for your interview and exam is in your best interests.
Proficiency In English
Passing the English portion of the naturalization test is an essential requirement for receiving citizenship. However, there are exceptions to this requirement. If a disability prevents you from taking this portion of the test, you can file Form N-648 for an exemption.
Additionally, those who are 55 or older and have held a green card for 15 years or more can use a translator at their naturalization interview.
Absence of Physical Presence
One of the requirements for obtaining citizenship is that you must have been in the country for at least half of the time over the five years before filing your Form N-400 application for naturalization.
That means that you must have physically been in the United States for at least 30 months over that period. This is broken down further where you must have been in the country for at least six months in each of the preceding five years. Additionally, you must continuously reside in the U.S. while your application is being processed.
Your Application Was Deemed Fraudulent
Your N-400 application will be denied if it is determined that you provided false information on your application. Your intent is unlikely to be taken into consideration. Even if you made a simple mistake and did not intend to provide false information, your application will likely be rejected.
Having a Fraudulent Green Card
If your green card is fraudulent or was obtained fraudulently, you could face a denial of citizenship. Additionally, you could be made to appear in court and face deportation proceedings.
Not Registering for the Selective Service
Males 18 to 25 years of age applying for U.S. citizenship must register for the Selective Service. Failure to do so is a common reason why citizenship is denied.
There are options for challenging a denial based on this decision. However, you must be able to prove that failing to register for the Selective Service was not a willful act.
Denial based on failure to register will bar you from refiling until you reach 31 years of age.
Having a Criminal Record
When you apply for citizenship, USCIS will run a thorough check of your criminal history. You can still get citizenship if you have a criminal record, but it depends on what the crime was and whether you were convicted. Some crimes will automatically disqualify you from becoming a U.S. citizen.
If you have a criminal record, talk to an immigration lawyer before applying for citizenship to make sure you are eligible.
Green Card Renewal Failure
Your citizenship application may be denied if you do not have a current, valid green card. How strictly USCIS holds to this requirement can vary. However, your N-400 application may get denied even if it just expired and you failed to get it renewed in time.
Crimes That Will Prevent You From Receiving U.S. Citizenship
If you have a criminal record, you are probably worried about whether your criminal history will affect your ability to attain citizenship. Conviction of some crimes will not affect your ability to obtain citizenship. However, many criminal acts could bar you from citizenship. Some convictions will result in a permanent disqualification, while others are only temporary.
Crimes That Permanently Bar Applicants From Citizenship
Crimes that permanently bar an applicant from obtaining citizenship include murder and aggravated felonies. While any murder conviction will result in a permanent block to your citizenship path, only aggravated felonies where the conviction was after November 29, 1990, apply.
There is no way around these blocks to your citizenship application. When USCIS reviews your criminal record, your application will automatically be denied. In addition, you will likely be put into deportation proceedings.
There is no clear definition of an aggravated felony. Some of these crimes are the serious offenses that you might expect, while others can be surprising and may even be deemed misdemeanors at the state or local level. Some crimes that can be considered aggravated felonies include:
- Sexual abuse of a minor
- Child pornography
- Running a prostitution business
- Firearm trafficking
- Drug trafficking
- Fraud of $10,000 or more
- Any crime of violence
- Theft or burglary that resulted in a prison term of one year or more
- Resisting arrest
- Driving under the influence
Not all the offenses listed above will always be counted as aggravated felonies, but all can be. Talk to an immigration lawyer before applying for citizenship if you have been convicted of any of these offenses.
Crimes That Temporarily Bar Applicants From Citizenship
With other criminal acts, as long as you were convicted before the five years prior to filing your citizenship application, you may be eligible to apply. However, there is no guarantee that USCIS will not choose to consider older actions when determining whether or not to grant you citizenship.
Some of the crimes that could make you temporarily ineligible for naturalization include:
- Operation of a commercial vice enterprise
- Participation in illegal vice activities
- Crimes of moral turpitude
- Crimes that result in 180 days or more in jail or prison
- Any crime related to an illegal drug (aside from a single offense involving 30 grams or less of marijuana
- Illegal gambling
Talk to an immigration lawyer if you have been convicted of any of the crimes listed above or similar offenses. A lawyer can help you determine how long you should wait after your conviction before applying for citizenship.
Steps to Take After a Denial of Citizenship
If your citizenship application gets denied, you still have options available for obtaining citizenship in many cases.
Administrative Review Filing Process
If your naturalization application gets denied, you may be able to file Form N-336 to request an administrative hearing. After you receive notice of your denial, you can request a hearing from a new immigration officer. You have 30 days to request an administrative review from the date of your application denial.
You will have to pay a fee when applying and can provide supplementary documentation to your application along with Form N-336.
Federal District Court Review Request
If your application is once again rejected, you can appeal the decision to the federal district court. You will need to submit a petition to a local federal district court within 120 days of the denial of your administrative review. Your district court hearing will be scheduled within 180 days.
After your application is reviewed, the new officer will either uphold the denial, deny your application based on new findings, or approve your application. During this process, you may also be able to retake the English or civics test if you failed during your original application.
You may also be able to file a legal motion if your application gets denied. This can be in the form of a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider.
With a motion to reopen, you will present new evidence that you believe will affect your case, along with your original application. The officer who issued you the denial will determine whether the new evidence warrants a reversal of their decision.
A motion to reconsider is filed if you believe that the evaluating officer denied you in error. You must prove that the law was applied incorrectly or insufficiently and that your application should have been approved.
Get Help With Your U.S. Citizenship Application
The best way to avoid a denial of your application is to prepare your naturalization application with the help of an immigration services company. At Immigration Direct, we have helped countless people file their N-400 applications correctly and obtain citizenship on their first attempt.