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Can I Appeal a Denial of My US Citizenship Application?

Getting US citizenship through the process of naturalization represents a seminal achievement for many immigrants in the United States. Trading in one's green card for US citizenship after meeting all requirements set forth by US immigration law and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is a very proud day, to be sure, for many immigrants in the United States. Almost 620,000 people gained US citizenship through naturalization in 2010 (the last year for which data was available at the time of this writing). But not everyone who submitted the citizenship application, Form N-400 (formally called the Application for Naturalization) ended up getting US citizenship by way of naturalization. Disappointment for those who had a citizenship application denied was of course significant – it never occurs to most persons applying for US citizenship through naturalization that their citizenship application might be denied by USCIS. As long as one meets the residency requirements, fills out the paperwork and takes the tests they should be able to count on their citizenship application being accepted by USCIS, or so it seems to many green card holders who have their sights set on US citizenship and don't foresee problems in achieving citizenship. When a citizenship application is rejected by USCIS, applicants for US citizenship often lose hope, thinking their naturalization bid has been stymied for good. This doesn't necessarily have to be the case – persons who have a citizenship application denied by USCIS can seek to overcome the rejection, ultimately gaining US citizenship through naturalization. This article describes how a green card holder can appeal an adverse citizenship application by USCIS. Appeals of an adverse citizenship application decision by USCIS should be approached with care, as US immigration law - and US citizenship law particularly - is exceptionally complex and the stakes are high when a citizenship application appeal is at issue. Persons seeking to appeal a negative USCIS decision on a US citizenship application are advised to consult an experienced immigration lawyer for guidance. A Dallas citizenship lawyer at the law firm Heartland Immigration can assist you in making your US citizenship application appeal as effective as possible, no matter where you are located. Contact Heartland Immigration for a free immigration consultation: 1-855-USA-IMMIGRATE

Appealing an Adverse US Citizenship Application Decision to USCIS

There are many reasons why a US citizenship application can be denied by USCIS. Something an applicant for US citizenship through naturalization includes in their citizenship application, Form N400, could lead USCIS to conclude that the green card holder is not qualified under US immigration law for citizenship. Additionally, a background check by USCIS, for example, could reveal a conviction for a crime that leads USCIS to believe the applicant for US citizenship is not a person "of good moral character" – the good moral character requirement is a provision of US immigration law that prevents many persons from getting US citizenship through naturalization.

A person whose US citizenship application has been denied by USCIS can appeal the decision by asking for a hearing on the matter with a USCIS immigration officer. This may not seem like much of an "appeal," given that it's the same agency deciding on the matter that originally denied the US citizenship application, but it will be a new immigration officer hearing the appeal and it is treated by USCIS for all intents and purposes as an appeal.

The appeal to USCIS of a denial of a US citizenship application must be made within 30 days of the denial of the original citizenship application. The immigration appeal is filed using Form N-336, Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings Under Section 336 of the INA. A person filing a citizenship application appeal should include with Form N336 any documentation that may help prove their case. Any evidence that might help show why the USCIS immigration officer who denied your US citizenship application was wrong in doing so will be helpful. You should also bring copies of such information with you to your immigration appeal hearing with the USCIS immigration officer. In addition to filing documentation that shows why you're entitled to US citizenship through naturalization, it is helpful to thoroughly explain your reasoning for why you believe the decision on your citizenship application was incorrect. This involves not only an explanation of the facts of your case or situation, but should also include an analysis under applicable US immigration law and USCIS policies. This is where an experienced immigration attorney can really be of value to a person filing an appeal of their denied citizenship application.

It's important that in filing the paperwork for an immigration appeal of an adverse US citizenship application decision, the individual specifically address the reason USCIS gives for rejecting the citizenship application. Where USCIS denies a citizenship application, the letter informing the naturalization applicant will explain why USCIS reached the decision. This should be what the immigration appeal focuses on. Many people make the mistake of either not making any real argument at all as to why USCIS erred when they appeal an adverse naturalization application decision, or of focusing on matters that have nothing to do with why USCIS refused the citizenship application in the first place.

After filing the US citizenship application appeal with USCIS on Form N366, an individual will get a letter from USCIS telling them when to appear for an immigration appeal hearing with a USCIS immigration officer. This is the naturalization applicant's chance to explain why they're entitled to US citizenship under US immigration law. A person who is making an appeal of a negative citizenship application can bring a lawyer with them to this USCIS immigration appeal hearing – we strongly advise people to do so. An immigration lawyer can help you explain your case and tie it to applicable US immigration law in a convincing way, giving you a better chance at ultimately gaining US citizenship by naturalization.

Appealing Adverse US Citizenship Application Decisions to a Federal District Court

A person who applies for US citizenship through naturalization but who is denied by USCIS both originally and again in the immigration appeal hearing can file a petition with a US district court for a new review of their US citizenship application. Seeking federal court review of a citizenship application is a complex, cumbersome undertaking – anyone seeking immigration benefits in federal court is strongly advised to engage an immigration lawyer for assistance.

It should be noted that an application for US citizenship by naturalization can sometimes lead to the immigration authorities placing a green card holder in deportation proceedings. This is the case where the government is made aware of conduct, usually of a criminal nature, that makes a person eligible for deportation because of something that is included in the application for US citizenship or that comes up in a related background or security check. For this reason, anyone whose US citizenship application is denied by USCIS may want to consider informing an immigration attorney so they can get advice as to whether the government might seek their deportation. This will give a person a head-start in defending against deportation if it looks like this might be likely, and if not, will at least give the individual peace of mind.

A Dallas immigration lawyer with the law firm Heartland Immigration can represent you in your US citizenship application appeal or in any other US immigration law matter, no matter your location – we serve clients across the country and around the world. For an immigration lawyer free consultation please contact us by e-mail or call us today: 1-855-USA-IMMIGRATE