Learn why some naturalization cases get denied

What happens if my naturalization case gets denied? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law here in St. Louis, Missouri. I was at immigration yesterday with a client. He had his naturalization interview. Before he went into the interview he turned to me and he asked me, “Jim, what happens if my case gets denied?” Now he has a very straightforward case and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be approved, everything went well at his interview. But it occurred to me that there’s probably a lot of people out there wondering the same thing, what happens if my naturalization case gets denied, so we shot this video to help you understand the process and what happens next.

There are many reasons why your case can get denied. You can get denied for not having good moral character, you can get denied because of some reason that you didn’t comply with US law at some point, or you might not pass your test. Let’s talk about each of those scenarios. At your naturalization interview you’re going to have the chance to take a civics exam and an English exam. If you don’t pass that test what happens is about 60 days later you’re going to get a second chance to take the test again. So with every N-400 naturalization application you basically get two chances for that filing fee of $680 to take the test and pass the test. If you pass it that’s great and you’re good to go. If you don’t pass it you get that second chance. If you don’t pass it the second time you’re going to have to refile for naturalization maybe at a later date to you give you more time to practice your English and to learn the answers to the citizenship questions.

But I think my client was asking more not so much about what happens if I don’t pass the test, but what happens if my case is denied. Well if your N-400 is denied you have the right to file for an administrative appeal and you do that by filing a form called N-336. There are pros and cons to the N-336. Basically what happens is you’re going to go down the hall to another immigration officer in the same field office. Let’s say you apply for citizenship in Boston and let’s say officer A denies you for some reason and you think that officer A made a mistake. Well then you can file this N-336 paying another filing fee which is another good chunk of money and then you’re going to have to go down the hall about a month or two later to interview again and to explain to the second officer why you think his coworker, the officer A down the hall, made a mistake.

A lot of times you don’t necessarily get that relief you’re looking for when you file an N-336. There’s appeals you can take after that. You can go to federal court and ask a judge to determine whether or not USCIS is correct in denying your citizenship. But in the immediate future after getting denied you’re going to have to do that process of the N-336 where you’re asking them to change their mind on the decision that they’ve reached.

If you ultimately are denied and you don’t appeal then two things can happen as far as when you can refile. Sometimes if there’s just a procedural problem if you didn’t fill out paperwork correctly or if you didn’t respond to a request for evidence or if there’s some flaw in the procedure that you filed then you might be able to apply right away. Again, you’re going to have to pay that filing fee again, but you’re going to get that starting all over, you’re going to have to deal with the fingerprints and you’re going to have to take the test again even if you passed it if you were denied for some procedural defect. You’re basically starting from scratch.

If your case is denied for a reason related to poor moral character, if you have some kind of arrest on your records, some criminal problems, or if there’s some legal impediment to you becoming a citizen you might have to wait for up to five years to refile. Let’s say that you applied and you had a criminal conviction and you were on probation three years ago before your case was filed. Typically you’re going to have to wait until probation is over and add five years to that date to refiling. Sometimes when people come in to see us we tell them it’s too early to file, you should let your probation run, let your five years run so that when USCIS looks back at the last five years you have a clean record. It’s not a guarantee that it’s going to get approved but it certainly helps things.

These are the kinds of things that can happen if your naturalization case is denied. We certainly hope that doesn’t happen to you, but a lot of people want to be prepared for whatever might happen so we made this video and we hope you find it helpful. If you did find it helpful do us a favor and click like so that other people can see our message, and if you can subscribe to our YouTube channel, we update it regularly with new immigration content all the time and it’s a great way to stay informed on developments in the law. If you have any questions give us a call, 314-961-8200, or you can email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com. Thanks a lot.