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9 Reasons Why a Citizenship Application May Be Denied

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for bigstock-Denial-stamp-64648537.jpgForm N-400 is the application for naturalization. If the applicant successfully passes the examination and clears all the necessary background checks, he/she will become a United States Citizen. While everyone who files an application anticipates being able to become a citizen, the reality is that not everyone will become one. What are the most common grounds for denial of an application? There are numerous reasons, some valid and grounded in the Immigration and Nationality Act, and some, unfortunately, which we have seen to be invalid. According the official USCIS Policy Manual, an application for Naturalization can be denied on the following grounds:

Lawful Admission for Permanent Residence.

This happens sometimes when an applicant may have procured his/her permanent residence through fraud or mistake. If the officer determines this, he/she may deny the application on the basis that the applicant was "not lawfully admitted."

Continuous Residence

If the applicant travels outside for an extended period of time, he or she may be deemed to have broken the continuity of his/her residence.

Physical Presence

The applicant must be in the United States for generally at least half of the statutory period (ie., 2 ½ out of the five years).

3 Months of Residence in State

There is a three-month residency requirement. If the applicant has not lived in the state of residence for at least three months before filing, the application may be denied on this basis.

Good Moral Character

Certain crimes or acts may lead to a finding that the applicant has not demonstrated good moral character.

Attachment and Favorable Disposition to the Good Order and Happiness of the United States

The applicant must demonstrate that he/she is attached to the US and its principles

Understanding English

Probably the most common reason why people fail

Knowledge of US History and Government

Besides being able to speak English, the applicant must demonstrate a knowledge of American civics

Lack Of Prosecution

If the applicant fails to show for the examination, the application may be denied.

There are generally two options if an application is denied: file a new application or appeal the decision.

What is an appeal?

An appeal is a request that the adverse decision be reviewed and reversed due to an error made by the adjudicating officer.

How to file an appeal?

The appeal is filed on form N-336. Besides the form itself, it is recommended that the applicant attach supporting documentation and in most cases, a brief or memo that explains the basis of the appeal. Absent a fee waiver, the filing fee to file the N-336 is currently $630.

When appealing an N-400 decision, there is a 30-day window to file the appeal. If you received your denial via mail, then the window is increased to 33 days. It is important to note that USCIS must receive the appeal by the deadline, so it is also recommended that it be filed with some sort of proof of delivery. If the appeal is mailed before the 30 (or 33) days have passed but is not received, then it will be considered late.


If the decision was not based on some sort of legal or procedural deficiency, one needs to strongly consider whether an appeal is the most appropriate means of having the case reviewed. For example, if you failed the history portion of the test twice, what exactly are you appealing? If you were not able to write the required sentence, and failed for writing, you need to consider whether your appeal will be sustained on that basis. You will only be granted one hearing, as opposed to refilling the application, which would entitle you to two more chances. If there is no legal basis for the appeal, you might be in for a surprise when you go to the hearing and the officer denies your case. In such a case, you might be better off filing an entirely new application for only $680 and getting two tries, as opposed to only one. Obviously, each case is fact and circumstance sensitive, so consulting with attorney to evaluate the viability of an appeal vs. re-filing is probably the best way to handle a denial.

For additional entries on citizenship and the many issues that can complicate a naturalization case, please refer to our citizenship archives

We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the "Subscribe To This Blog's Feed" button on the right. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the "Case Evaluation" box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.

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