In order to apply for Naturalization, one needs to complete the N-400 application. Contrary to popular belief, however, one does not automatically become a citizen upon submission of the application. The applicant will be summoned to appear for a naturalization examination at the local District Office, where he/she must demonstrate general basic proficiency with the English language (subject to certain exceptions), knowledge of American history and civics, the requisite physical and continuous residence, and good moral character. If the applicant passes the tests and meets the associated requirements, the officer will recommend that the applicant be approved for naturalization. What happens, though, if the applicant does not pass the test?
Fortunately, USCIS accords each applicant two chances to pass the naturalization test. This is assuming that the applicant failed a portion of the examination, e.g, English or history.
Therefore, if an applicant fails the history test, for example, he or she will be called in for a reinterview to be retested. If he/she passes the history test during the second interview, the officer will ordinarily approve the case, provided that all other requirements have been met. If, on the other hand, the applicant fails the second time, he or she will receive a formal Decision letter in person or by mail advising that the application has been denied.
If there is an issue regarding something other than the actual test, the applicant may or may not receive a second interview. It depends on the nature of the specific problem. If, for instance, the applicant has been arrested but failed to furnish a certified disposition, the officer may request that the certified disposition be mailed back to him/her without the necessity of appearing for another interview. If the response is satisfactory, the officer may approve the case and schedule the applicant for an Oath ceremony. Conversely, the officer may issue a Denial Notice if the applicant is deemed ineligible. Other times, the issue may concern a long trip exceeding 180 days and the officer may advise the applicant to appear for a second interview with proof of residence. During the second interview, the officer will evaluate the evidence and orally question the applicant regarding the circumstances of the trip.
If an application is formally denied, the applicant will be advised of his/her right to appeal the decision. The appeal must be filed on Form N-336, be accompanied by the proper filing fee (currently $650), and submitted within 30 days (or 33 if the denial notice was received by mail). When it comes to an appeal, one should carefully weigh whether it is more advantageous to appeal or just refile a new N-400 application. There are some aspects specific to N-336 that people may be unware of:
- The applicant must state the reason for the appeal. In practical terms, most USCIS appeals officers will expect a legal basis for the appeal: that the previous USCIS officer made a decision that was legally incorrect and which should be reversed.
- The applicant will ordinarily be granted only one hearing to decide the appeal.
Compare and contrast this with a fresh N-400 application:
- The applicant does not need to state a reason for filing a new application.
- The applicant will be granted up to two interviews (vs. only one for the appeal)
- Depending on which district, processing times may be quicker for an N-400 case than an N-336 case.
In general terms, a new application may be more appropriate if the applicant failed for the English or history test. If, on the other hand, the applicant was denied for a good moral character or proof of residence issue-matters that involve legal concepts as well as exercises of discretion-an appeal may arguably be worth considering, especially if one does not wish to take the English and civics tests again.
Our office has nearly 18 years practical experience in handling N-400 petitions as well as N-336 appeals. For more information and insight into the differences between the two and which one is more appropriate for your situation, consult with our office. Remember that this is general information only and not intended to create an attorney-client relationship, nor is it a substitute for legal advice.