Handling a US Citizenship Application Rejection

Instructor: Amy Troolin

Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.

In this lesson, we'll learn about what to do when the USCIS rejects an application for naturalization. We'll explore the possible reasons for rejection and discover ways to respond to a rejection.

Naturalization Rejected!

Oh no! Your application for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen has just been rejected. You had your heart set on finally being a citizen of the adopted country you love. What happened anyway? And what do you do now? This lesson will help you answer those questions and take the next steps in your journey toward U.S. citizenship.

First, we need to make a distinction. Was your application merely continued or actually denied? If it was continued, your rejection letter will explain why. You may have failed the civics, reading, or writing tests, or perhaps you didn't have all of your documents in place. Not to worry! You can gather necessary documents, study more for the tests, and reapply immediately.

But what if your application was truly denied?

Why Was It Denied?

If that's the case, you must first understand why your application was denied. Here are a few possible reasons why the USCIS might have denied your application for naturalization:

  • You didn't meet the naturalization eligibility requirements. These include
    • Must have lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident for five years
    • Must not have been out of the U.S. for too long a period or for too many days
    • Must have lived in a state or district for a full three months
    • Must show on your application that you have the proper moral character and a firm commitment to the United States
  • Your criminal history may have gotten in the way. If you committed certain crimes in the past, that history might permanently or temporarily prevent you from becoming a U.S. citizen. Violent crimes like murder, assault, or felony theft are permanent obstacles to naturalization. Lesser crimes require a waiting period of three to five years before naturalization.
  • Perhaps you are in the U.S. illegally. You may not even realize it, but the naturalization process is so thorough that sometimes USCIS officials catch mistakes with Permanent Resident Cards. These can often be fixed, so be sure to find out what the issue actually is.
  • You may have some financial troubles, like outstanding debts and tax payments, bankruptcy, and foreclosure, that make the USCIS extra cautious about your application. Failure to meet financial commitments, especially taxes and child support, reflect negatively on your moral character and can lead to a denial.
  • If you are a male between ages 18 and 26 and you have not registered for the Selective Service (the military draft), the USCIS will reject your application.
  • If you lie at all on your application or in your naturalization eligibility interview and the USCIS finds out, your application will be denied automatically. The USCIS checks up on you to make sure you are honest, so the best policy is to actually be honest. There may be things in your past that you'd rather not talk about, but you need to admit to them anyway. Even if you didn't intend to lie and simply made a mistake, the USCIS doesn't know that and will deny your application for false information.

The Next Steps To Take

So what should you do if you feel that your application was wrongly denied? First off, if your denial was due to some kind of error, you can simply reapply for naturalization. To do this, you must fill out a brand new N-400 form. Be extra careful to get everything right this time and double check your work. Sometimes the USCIS may require you to wait for a while before you reapply, so be sure to read your denial letter closely to learn about any waiting period. You may also have to wait until you have met the naturalization requirements.

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