U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied naturalization to over 17,000 Immigrants between July 1 and September 30, 2020. The process for citizenship is complicated and can take years to complete. Many immigrants who apply for naturalization are accepted, but what happens when an application is denied, and what can you do to avoid denial?
What Is Naturalization?
Naturalization is one of the most significant immigration benefits offered by the United States. It is the process by which official U.S. citizenship is granted to an immigrant who meets the requirements established in the Immigration and Nationality Act. Naturalized immigrants get all of the benefits of being a U.S. citizen, like voting, obtaining citizenship for children born abroad, and becoming an elected official.
What Are the Qualifications for Naturalization?
There are several general eligibility requirements applicants must meet to receive approval for citizenship.
The qualifications include the following:
- 18 years old or older
- Proof of lawful permanent residency
- Residence in the United States for at least 30 months
- Be a person of good moral character
- Be able to speak, read, write, and understand the English language
- Have an understanding of American history, U.S. government, and civics
- Be willing to take the oath of allegiance
Applicants have to submit Form N-400 and required documents like I.D.s and passports to apply for naturalization. The waiting period can take years, and applicants must pass several checks from the USCIS to be approved. These checks help the USCIS verify the applicant's commitment to constitutional values and the law and their ability to speak the English Language.
The USCIS will only approve applicants who follow their rules for naturalization. To avoid denial, here are a few Naturalization Dos to follow once you have submitted your Form N-400.
- DO study for the Civics Test and interview. This is a crucial part of the process that tests your knowledge of the United States government, American History, and the English Language. Don't stress about what to study – the USCIS has provided a practice test and study guides to help you do your best. The test itself may vary depending on whether you take the 2008 or 2020 version of the test. You will have the option of choosing which test you take until April 19, 2020.
- DO speak with an attorney if you have a criminal record. This is crucial because the USCIS is likely to reject your application if they find evidence of criminal activity. An attorney can help you understand your options and help you pursue your American dream.
- DO make sure that you keep track of all deadlines regarding your application and fees. Late payments are not accepted. Many people in the U.S. are suffering joblessness and financial hardship, and immigrants who are in the process of applying for naturalization may also be struggling financially. Keep in mind that debt won't keep you from being accepted, but failure to pay taxes and application fees can.
The best thing you can do is be prepared. Keep a list of deadlines and requirements so you can gather the necessary documents and fees and submit them on time. Helpful resources for the Civics Test are available for free on the USCIS website, and there may be other local resources in your area like study groups or tutoring sessions. Also, consider speaking with other immigrants who have already earned citizenship to learn from their experiences.
Citizenship is possible, but some actions can disqualify you or bar your ability to apply for naturalization. Below are a few Naturalization Don'ts to avoid when applying for citizenship.
- DON'T lie on any part of the USCIS application for naturalization. Submitting incorrect or false information during the naturalization process is considered fraud, even if it was an accident. "Good moral character" is one of the primary qualifications for citizenship, so any fraudulent behavior immediately disqualifies you.
- DON'T wait to speak with an attorney. You should talk with a legal representative even if you don't have a criminal record to avoid mistakes during the application process. Attorneys can advocate for you every step of the way and help you complete the complicated forms correctly.
- DON'T leave the U.S. before or during the naturalization process. One of the most critical prerequisites for naturalization is proof of residence in the United States for 30 months or more. Moving out of the country even for a short period of time or taking a trip lasting six months or more could jeopardize your application.
If you are denied citizenship, your lawful permanent resident status is safe, but green cards could be canceled. This usually happens when someone fails the English exam or the Naturalization Civics Test. While you can apply to retake the exam section you didn't pass, the USCIS will not offer you another chance to take the test if you fail a second time.
Leaving the U.S. for a significant amount of time or committing a crime will disqualify you for citizenship and may lead to deportation in some cases. If an individual is outside of the U.S. or commits a crime, they are inadmissible to the United States.
Citizenship can provide many opportunities for immigrants, but the process is confusing at best. Whether you are starting the application process or having difficulty with a step along the way, contact an attorney today.