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Denied Citizenship? Don't Panic: Understanding N-400 Denials and Your Next Steps


A lawful permanent resident of the United States or “green card holder” seeking to become a US citizen must file form N-400 to become a citizen. However, sometimes these individuals seeking citizenship are denied. The purpose of this blog is to discuss common reasons for denial and what to do if you are facing a denial.

Common Reasons for Denial

Some common reasons for denial include failing the English or Civcis Test, lack of good moral character, or other ineligibility, such as failure to pay taxes or support dependent. We’ve outlined a few common examples below:

  1. Physical Presence and Long Absences

An applicant seeking naturalization must be physically present in the United States for half of the time in which they were granted permanent residency. For individuals who seek naturalization based on marriage to a US citizen, the physical presence must be one and a half years. For others, the period must be two and a half years, or 913 days.

For individuals who have been absent from the United States for six months or longer, there is a presumption that you have abandoned your residency.  For individuals with an absence of one year or longer, residency is abandoned.  In these scenarios, you should discuss your travel history with your immigration lawyer. 

  1. Good Moral Character

An application for naturalization must prove they are a person of “good moral character.” USCIS will generally look back five years from the date of the filing of the naturalization applications, however, any criminal conviction can be taken into consideration in deciding your naturalization application.

  1. Criminal Convictions

If you have any type of criminal conviction, and your naturalization was denied based on that conviction, it is imperative for you to discuss your case with an immigration attorney. This is because some criminal convictions will not only lead to your naturalization application being denied, but you may be placed in deportation proceedings. Even convictions that were dismissed or expunged can be problematic.

  1. Driving Under the Influence (DUI or DWI)

DUI (driving under the influence) cover any offense where someone drives impaired, not just "driving while intoxicated." Having two or more DUIs within a certain timeframe raises a red flag for good moral character (GMC) needed for immigration purposes. However, our office has seen that many USCIS Field Offices will deny naturalization to individuals with even one DUI. Often, we appeal these cases to show that one DUI is insufficient to deny naturalization. Also, it is helpful to include strong evidence showing good character despite the DUIs and that they were unusual events.

  1. Failure to Support Dependents

Not supporting your dependents can hurt your chances of getting approved for immigration benefits that require good moral character (GMC). This applies even if there's no court order for child support. We have succeeded in appealing naturalization decisions by showing that the failure to pay was not willful and that extenuating circumstances existed, such as temporary unemployment, an honest mistake, and good faith efforts to support their children.

  1. Failure to Pay Taxes

Not filing tax returns, paying less than owed, or having inconsistencies between your tax return and records can raise a red flag for GMC for immigration purposes. This is because it can be seen as breaking the law or acting unethically. However, there are some exceptions, and we’ve argued these on appeal. For example, showing that you are in a payment plan with the IRS , or showing there was a mistake and showing correction of the mistake.

  1. False Claim to US Citizenship

If USCIS is alleging that you’ve made a false claim to US Citizenship, meaning, you’ve told someone you are a US citizen when you are not, you should speak to an immigration attorney immediately. A false claim to a US citizenship has severe consequences in immigration law, which includes deportation. Often these issues come up because someone accidentally registered to vote, sometimes not knowing they were doing so by renewing their drivers license at the DMV.

Appeal or Refile?

Once you’ve spoken to an immigration attorney, a plan of action will be recommended. In some scenarios, we recommend the client refile for naturalization again by filing N-400. In other scenarios, when it is clear USCIS has made an error, or when you’ve encountered a particularly difficult or aggressive officer who wishes to impose their own personal views rather than the law, we recommend filing Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision.

Judicial Review in Federal Court

In some complex cases, when USCIS refuses to see the law for what it is, court intervention is necessary. In scenarios where an N-400 is denied, and an N-336 appeal is also denied, federal court intervention is necessary. In these scenarios, a complaint must be filed in federal district court requesting review of your denial based 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c) asking the federal district court to review your application for naturalization.


Immigration law is complex, and even USCIS officers get the law wrong. If your naturalization application is denied, it is important to have an immigration attorney review the reason for the denial. Then, it may be necessary to either refile your N-400 or appeal the decision through an N-336 appeal. In cases where an N-336 appeal is also denied, federal court intervention may be necessary. Contact our office today to discuss your case.

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