Top 5 Reasons for Citizenship Denial
The denial rate for N-400 naturalization applications has continued to creep up in recent years. If we understand on what grounds these applications are most commonly being denied, we can improve our preparation and increase the chances of an approval.
Below is a chart depicting the statistics for the last 5 years.
On average, approximately 10% of the applicants are being denied with a slightly higher rate of denial in the last 2 years. What are the top denial reasons?
- Failure of English or Civics Test
Except for a small group of people, everyone must pass the English test and Civics test. If one fails either of the tests, he or she is given one more chance.
As for the civics test, USCIS publishes 100 questions regarding history and government on its website. At the interview, the applicant will be asked up to 10 questions from the 100 and must answer 6 out of the 10 questions correctly.
Two groups of applicants are exempt from the English language requirement and can take the civics test in their native language with the help of an interpreter.
(1) Age 50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident (Green Card holder) in the United States for 20 years (“50/20” exception) or
(2) Age 55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the United States for 15 years (“55/15” exception).
Additionally, applicants who are medically disabled and whose disability affects their ability to sit for the test may be exempt from both tests if they can obtain and present a Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, form N-648, completed by a doctor.
2. Disruption of Continuous Residence or Lack of Physical Presence
Applicants are required to show that they have resided continuously in the U.S. for five years before applying (3 years in the case of spouses of U.S. citizens). Continuous residence can be broken by long absences outside of the U.S. Absences of more than six months, but less than one year, may disrupt an applicant’s continuous residence, but the applicant can justify them with special circumstances such as illness, education, etc. Absences in excess of one year or more almost always disrupts an applicant’s continuous residence.
In comparison, physical presence means the applicant must have been present in the US for a total of at least thirty months within the five-year period before applying (18 months within the three year period before applying in the case of spouses of U.S. citizens).
3. Lack of Good Moral Character
Applicants must also establish good moral character. Generally, convictions during the statutory 5 years (or 3 years) bar establishing good moral character.
Under immigration law, admission of guilt is the same as a conviction. This applies to expunged or dismissed records.
4. Failure to Maintain Permanent Residence
There are no specific guidelines for this ground. INA § 101(a)(33) defines residence as the place of general abode, which means “his principal, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent.” Thus, USCIS will review where the actual dwelling place is and may determine that the applicant has abandoned his permanent residence. For example, moving to another country and intending to live there permanently; declaring oneself a “nonimmigrant” on the U.S. tax returns; extended and repeated stay overseas; and claiming earned foreign income exclusion may trigger closer review.
5. Procuring Green Card Illegally in the First Place
A denial based on this ground is infrequent, but is the most fatal because the denial may result in revocation of the green card and removal proceedings. Procuring a green card illegally simply means that the person was not eligible for it in the first place. If there is any doubt in the original approval of the green card case, the hopeful applicant should consult an immigration attorney.
On November 13, 2020, USCIS announced that it would be expanding the naturalization civics test for applications that are filed on or after December 1, 2020 (https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/uscis-announces-a-revised-naturalization-civics-test). However, as Joe Biden’s immigration proposals include restoring and defending naturalization process (“A Biden Administration will streamline and improve the naturalization process to make it more accessible to qualified green card holders.”), it is widely expected that this expansion is likely to be reversed once the administration changes.
Copyright. Judy J. Chang, Esq. All Rights Reserved. 11/03/2020
The information contained in article is provided for general information only and should not serve as a substitute for legal advice.