Appealing a Naturalization Denial
Jan. 26, 2023
In the last fiscal year (October 2021 through September 2022), some 967,400 adult immigrants became U.S. citizens through the naturalization process. If you factor in children who were able to gain citizenship from their parents, the figure rises to 1,023,200 new citizens. However, during the same period for FY 2022, about 14% of citizenship applicants were denied.
As it turns out, where a person applies can make a difference not only in the length of processing time but also in the denial rate. In Seattle, processing time averages about 19 months, while in Helena, Montana, the wait is only 11 months. And for no clear reason, applicants in cities like Los Angeles and San Bernardino, California, are turned down at twice the rate of the national average.
If you are a foreign national in the U.S. who has had your naturalization petition denied, you can file an appeal or even reapply to begin the process all over again. To file an appeal, you have 30 days, so the clock is ticking. For help in preparing your petition to challenge a naturalization decision, or to reapply, contact me at M Matthew Law Firm, PLLC.
I have more than a decade’s experience in helping clients with immigration concerns and can guide you in preparing an appeal with supporting documents to facilitate the review process and increase your odds of success. I proudly serve clients in Dallas, Texas, as well as the surrounding areas of Richardson, Lewisville, Grand Prairie, Irving, Farmers Branch, Garland, and Mesquite.
Common Reasons a Naturalization Application Is Denied
The most common reason for denial is the failure of the applicant to pass the English or U.S. civics tests involved in the naturalization process. This really boils down to preparation. The website of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website provides tools to prepare for the tests, and many communities offer free or low-cost preparation services.
Other reasons for denial can often be accompanied by a Notice to Appear (NTA), which involves a hearing before an immigration judge for removal from the country, i.e., deportation. These reasons include:
FAILURE TO OBTAIN PROPER LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENT (LPR) STATUS: This generally means that the applicant used fraud to obtain their LPR, or Green Card status.
FAILURE TO PROPERLY MAINTAIN LPR STATUS: This is more of a gray area, but USCIS will examine several factors to make this determination, including time spent abroad; employment, school and residency records; and other factors indicating abandonment.
FAILURE TO ESTABLISH CONTINUOUS RESIDENCE OR PHYSICAL PRESENCE: Applicants must have five years of continuous presence in the U.S. and 30 months of physical presence to qualify for naturalization (spouses of U.S. citizens face three-year and 18-month thresholds). If an applicant takes a trip abroad for a year or more, this requirement is in jeopardy.
FAILURE TO ESTABLISH GOOD MORAL CHARACTER: This category generally involves any criminal activity, whether through a conviction or through association with criminal elements.
What to Do If Facing a Denial: Appeal or Re-Apply?
USCIS is required to provide notice of a denial within 120 days following the naturalization interview. The notice must cite the specific reasons for the denial. If the action involves a failed English or civics test, the person will be given an opportunity to retake the tests.
For any other reason, the applicant then has 30 days to file Form N-336 for an administrative appeal. In submitting the form, the applicant must directly address the reasons for the denial and provide factors or evidence showing that the denial was inappropriate or misapplied. The appeal does not require an additional interview but will be forwarded to a senior official for review of the original finding.
Since an appeal can take as long as an initial application, which can range from many months to more than a year, it is also possible just to refile the original application using Form N-400. In the reapplication, you can more directly address the issues that led to your denial.
Get Guidance for Your Appeal From a Skilled Attorney
If your denial is based on residency requirements or moral character, you must address these issues. You will need to prove that you indeed meet the residency requirements, and if you have any serious convictions, you will need to clear them from your record. In either case, you will need to seek the counsel and guidance of an experienced immigration attorney in filing your appeal or re-application.
If you’re in the Dallas, Texas, area, get in touch with me at M Matthew Law Firm, PLLC. I’m ready to help you address your immigration issues and concerns, including a denial of your naturalization application. Let’s work together to pursue your U.S. citizenship.