Naturalization is the process to become a U.S. citizen if you were born outside of the United States. The N-400 is the application for eligible green card holders (permanent residents) to become naturalized citizens. Immigrants who either have been green card holders for 3–5 years or meet various military service requirements.
Am I Eligible to Apply for Naturalization?
In addition to waiting three (marriage to a US citizen) or five years after getting your green card, you must also satisfy the following requirements to proceed with the naturalization process for U.S. citizenship:
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- You must not have taken any trips of six months or longer outside of the United States during the three- or five-year wait period.
- You must have been a resident of the state where you plan to apply for citizenship for at least three months.
- You must have “good moral character,” broadly defined as character that measures up to the standards of average citizens in your community.
- You must pass a two-part naturalization test: the first is an English language test (covering reading, writing, and speaking skills) and the second a civics test (covering knowledge of U.S. history and government).
- You must be willing to serve in the U.S. military or perform civilian service for the United States if called upon to do so.
- You must register with the Selective Service System if you are male and have lived in the United States between the ages of 18 and 25.
- You must be willing to defend the U.S. Constitution.
When is My Naturalization Interview Scheduled?
After U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reviewed your naturalization application and processed your biometric information, they will set an interview appointment for you. Your appointment notice will have your interview date and time. Citizenship interviews typically take place at a USCIS field office - usually, one that is close to the physical address you provided on the Form N-400 form you submitted.
What if my N-400 was Denied after the Interview?
If you received a notice stating that your N-400 was denied after the interview, it could be for any of the following three reasons:
- Failure to show competence on the English and civics tests.
- Failure to show residence and physical presence requirements.
- Failure to show good moral character.
Failure to Show Competence on the English and Civics Tests
If an applicant fails any portion of the English test, the civics test, or all tests during the initial naturalization examination, it is important not to give up hope on the dream to become a U.S. citizen—there is another chance.
USCIS will send the applicant a notice scheduling them for a second interview so that an officer can re-administer the test or tests that were previously failed. The applicant will not have to retake any test they passed.
The second interview and examination will be scheduled between 60 and 90 days after the initial examination. This second interview is the final opportunity (within this part of the application process) to pass the English exam that is required to be approved as a naturalized U.S. citizen. If the applicant needs more than 60 to 90 days to prepare, they may request a postponement so long as the request is prompt and reasonable.
If citizenship is denied because the applicant could not pass the English and/or civics tests on the second attempt, they can request USCIS for a hearing on the denial by filing Form N-336, with a fee or fee waiver. Form N-336 allows you to appeal against a negative decision on an application meant to obtain U.S. citizenship. At this third hearing, you will get a third chance to pass the test(s).
Failure to show residence and physical presence requirements
Applicants are required to show that they have:
- Resided continuously in the U.S. for five years before applying, or
- Resided continuously in the U.S. for three years in the case of qualified spouses of U.S. citizens. “Continuous residence” means that the applicant has maintained residence within the United States for the required period of time shown above.
It is important to note that extended absences outside the U.S. may disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence. Absences of more than six months but less than one year may disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence unless the applicant can prove otherwise. Absences of more than one year or more will disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence. See this policy manual for more details.
Failure to show good moral character
The good moral character naturalization provision allows the United States government to conclude whether a green card holder would be a good fit for U.S. citizenship. To verify good moral character, you need to confirm that you are continuing to be a law-abiding individual free of significant offense arrests. According to the USCIS Policy Manual(Part F), good moral character for naturalization purposes is defined as "character which measures up to the standards of average citizens of the community in which the applicant resides."
Certain very serious or violent crimes will permanently prevent an applicant from ever showing good moral character. According to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, these crimes include murder, attempted murder, drug sales and certain other offenses known as known as “aggravated felonies.” Aggravated felonies include selling drugs or weapons, seriously injuring another person, and certain severe forms of theft such as burglary and fraud. Because of the serious nature of these crimes, a person who has been found guilty of an aggravated felony shows a lack of good moral character and can never become a U.S. citizen. If you have been convicted of any crime, it is important to consult a lawyer to assist you with naturalization because certain offenses will trigger a “Notice to Appear” which initiates deportation proceedings against you.
If a citizenship applicant has a crime of moral turpitude (CMT) on their record or even just admits to the crime in some cases, the government can block a green card holder from demonstrating the “good moral character” needed to achieve naturalization. A crime of moral turpitude has been defined as a crime done with an evil purpose or recklessly. It is an inherently base, depraved, or vile act that goes against morality and responsibilities owed to society in general or between individual people.
The U.S. courts and the government have specified the following offenses to be CMTs in some immigrant cases:
- Aggravated assault
- Animal fighting
- Child abuse
- Acting as an accessory to a CMT offense
- In some cases, involuntary manslaughter
- Rape and incest
- Spousal abuse / Domestic Violence
- Voluntary Manslaughter
- Making false statements
- Tax fraud
Appeal of Naturalization Decision (N-336, Request for Hearing)
If you do not agree with a USCIS decision on your naturalization application, you must file an appeal of the decision within 30 days. In the appeal, you can present additional evidence as to why you believe you are eligible for naturalization. Appeals of naturalization appeals can be very complex depending on the issue of denial. Therefore, we recommend that you hire an experienced immigration lawyer to assist with he appeal.
Contact Yekrangi & Associates Today
For more information, contact the Orange County Immigration Attorneys at Yekrangi & Associates today. You are not alone, and we will fight for you. Yekrangi & Associates works to meet a higher standard. Our first goal is your satisfaction. Contact us at (949) 478-4963 to schedule a consultation or complete our convenient “Get Your Consultation” form here. We are located in Irvine, California but serve clients globally.