The obtainment of US citizenship through the process of naturalization marks a seminal event in the lives of many persons. Millions of people from all over the globe desire to become a US citizen through naturalization, and many make significant sacrifices to procure US citizenship. After (in most cases) going through the time and effort to get a green card – something that can literally take over a decade in some cases – and then waiting the requisite time to file a citizenship application and studying for the naturalization civics and English tests, the last thing a seeker of US citizenship through naturalization wants is to have to wait for months for the immigration authorities to rule on their application for naturalization. Any citizenship lawyer can recount stories of naturalization applicants who feel like they are caught in immigration limbo while US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) rules on their naturalization application. Naturalization lawyers can play an important role in helping a person seeking US citizenship get an answer from USCIS where that agency delays in producing a timely response to a citizenship application. This article explains how a person seeking US citizenship by naturalization can force USCIS to take action on their citizenship application when certain conditions are met. If USCIS is taking an inordinate amount of time to give you an answer on your naturalization application, you should contact a citizenship lawyer for assistance. No matter where you are located, a Dallas immigration lawyer at the law firm Heartland Immigration can advise you in your bid to gain US citizenship through naturalization. Contact a Heartland Immigration attorney today for a free immigration consultation: 1-855-USA-IMMIGRATE
What causes delays in the processing of the Form N-400 Application for Naturalization?
Sometimes USCIS takes not just weeks but even months or more to make a decision on a US citizenship seeker's Form N-400 Application for Naturalization, which is the application for US citizenship through naturalization. Delays by USCIS in adjudicating the citizenship application happen for many reasons. Like all large organizations with many moving parts, sometimes things simply get misplaced or overlooked. But more often, delays in getting a US citizenship seeker a decision on their naturalization application are due to security checks. These background checks range in the amount of time they take to be completed in the naturalization context, with some stretching many months or longer. Several US government agencies are involved in the process, and it can take time to resolve certain issues that arise throughout the course of the naturalization security check. Things that an applicant for US citizenship by naturalization include in their Form N-400 Application can raise red flags that take time to investigate, as can information revealed at the naturalization interview.
Seeking federal court assistance on a stalled naturalization application
Thankfully, US immigration law provides a remedy for those waiting on a reply from USCIS on their citizenship application when USCIS takes more than 120 days to adjudicate the naturalization application. A section of US immigration law, Section 336(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), allows a US citizenship applicant to go over the head of USCIS and apply for a US federal court to take action on the naturalization application where USCIS fails to make a decision on the application for citizenship within 120 days.
The clock starts for counting the 120 days after the naturalization "examination." There has been considerable confusion and disagreement concerning how the word "examination" should be interpreted in the context of this provision of US immigration law. A US citizenship seeker's naturalization interview, where an immigration official with USCIS asks the citizenship applicant questions, is generally considered to be the examination. But when does this "examination" end, starting the 120 clock, in situations where multiple interviews with USCIS are required? Some courts have said that the examination includes any follow-up interviews as well as the pendency of the security checks. Most naturalization lawyers disagree with this interpretation, as do all of the federal courts of appeal who have addressed this issue – they say that the first interview with USCIS after the citizenship application is filed counts as the "examination" for purposes of this US immigration law provision, starting the 120 click the day after such interview. You can generally rely on this interpretation.
What happens next?
Once 120 days have passed since the US citizenship seeker's initial interview with USCIS without USCIS ruling on the naturalization application, the individual can petition a US federal court in the district in which the person lives to take action on the US citizenship application. The federal court has two options: it can (i) rule on the citizenship application itself, either granting a person US citizenship or denying their naturalization application; or (ii) send the case back to USCIS with instructions that USCIS make a timely decision on the naturalization application. The federal courts rarely do the former – they prefer to remand the case to USCIS, and usually stipulate that USCIS must issue a decision on the citizenship application within a certain amount of days. Sometimes USCIS will be directed by the federal court to make a decision on the Form N-400 naturalization application within a certain amount of days after security checks are completed, in which case it can still take a long time for an individual to get an answer on their citizenship application. USCIS will do what the federal court says it must do, leading to a resolution of the citizenship application. A citizenship lawyer can help you in filing for this action in federal court; rules governing actions in federal court are complex, and a misstep by a US citizenship seeker can have serious adverse consequences.
Do not confuse an INA 336(b) action with other citizenship matters in federal court
Unfortunately, INA 336(b) - the provision of US immigration law that allows a person to seek federal court action on a stalled naturalization application – does not allow a citizenship applicant to force USCIS to take action on a naturalization application at any stage before the examination. USCIS sometimes takes a long time to schedule this examination after receiving the Form N-400 naturalization application, and in making a decision after an administrative appeal upon a denial of a naturalization application. In such cases, a naturalization applicant may still be able to get a federal court to intervene, but a different provision of US immigration law governs and different rules and processes apply. A citizenship lawyer can tell you more about options for expediting the adjudication of your USCIS naturalization application.
It should be noted that INA 336(b) is likewise not the same thing as the provision of US immigration law that allows a US citizenship seeker to appeal a negative decision by USCIS on their naturalization application. These are two different processes, to which different rules and procedures apply. For a denial of citizenship appeal to a federal court the individual whose naturalization application was denied must first file an administrative appeal with USCIS, and only then (if USCIS upholds the citizenship application denial) can the US citizenship seeker appeal to the federal court. By contrast, the provision of the law at issue in this article, INA 336(b), does not require a US citizenship seeker to do anything with respect to USCIS if USCIS does not rule on their naturalization application within 120 days of the examination – the applicant for US citizenship through naturalization can go straight to the US federal court to seek resolution of the matter.
For assistance with your US immigration law matter please contact a Heartland Immigration lawyer – get in touch for an immigration lawyer free consultation or give us a call today to discuss your immigration issue: 1-855-USA-IMMIGRATE