If my N-400 Application for Naturalization (U.S. Citizenship) has been denied by USCIS, what should I do now, what can I do now? What chances do I have to still become a U.S. citizen? What will happen next? Will I be deported? Do I lose my status and my green card?
These are all very common questions that lawful permanent residents ask themselves after they receive a denial letter after an N-400 citizenship interview. Receiving a denial letter from USCIS telling you that you will not become a citizen may be heartbreaking to people who have held a life-long dream to become a U.S. citizen. But an N-400 denial letter is often not the end of the road and there are many options available to people who receive an N-400 denial letter.
The first thing to remember is that you do not only get one opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship. That’s right, even if you are denied, most of the time, you can reapply; you do not get just one bite at the apple. So depending on why you were denied, you may be able to wait a few days, months or years and apply again.
Also important to remember is that just because your N-400 application was denied does not mean that you will have your lawful permanent resident status (your green card) taken away. Most of the time when your N-400 is denied, its not because you have done anything that can get you deported, its because you may not exactly qualify under the rules for citizenship.
So, if you receive a denial, do not panic, do not give up hope, do not flee the country, contact an experienced immigration attorney to talk about your options. You will want to contact an attorney as soon as possible after you receive the denial letter as you have only 30 or 33 days to appeal the decision if you decide to do that.
The first option for all N-400 denials is to file an appeal, which is known as a Form N-336 Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings. This form must be filed within 30 or 33 days of the N-400 decision, depending on whether you received it in person or by mail. The form can be filed by mail or online and the filing fee is $700. If you file this appeal, you will usually need to have a good legal argument for why the N-400 decision was wrong and/or additional evidence that you did not provide at the N-400 interview that is needed to prove you qualify for citizenship.
After you file the N-336, you will usually receive a notice for the hearing at the same office where your N-400 was denied, but you will see a different immigration officer. The interviews/hearings are usually scheduled in about 2-5 months after you file the appeal. It is not required that you have an attorney for the N-336 appeal process, but it is certainly much better to have an attorney help you with the appeal than to do it yourself. Often times, if you filed your N-400 pro se (without an attorney) and you were denied, it is likely because of something that you overlooked in the law or your eligibility or you did make the right argument at the interview for why you qualify for citizenship. An experienced immigration attorney can help you determine if the appeal process is right for you and if you have a strong chance of winning on appeal.
Also, if you plan to sue the government in federal court for denying your N-400 Application for Naturalization—yes you can do that—then you must file the N-336 first and be denied. Hopefully, you will not have your N-336 denied, but it can happen.
For many people denied citizenship, the N-336 appeal process is the best way to quickly overcome the denial and become a U.S. citizen. In the right circumstances, the N-336 is less expensive and takes less time for a decision than filing a new N-400. However, for some applicants, an N-336 is not the right path and refiling an N-400 is the way to go.
For example, if your N-400 was denied because you have a criminal conviction or other bad act inside the three or five year statutory period leading up to your N-400 application, appealing the denial may not be the best idea for you. Sometimes, refiling your N-400, now that your conviction or other bad act is more than three or five years in the past is the only way to go.
If USCIS denied your N-400 because you did something in the past that not only makes you ineligible for citizenship, but makes you deportable from the country—certain criminal convictions, unlawful voting, committing immigration fraud, etc.—then appealing your denial or refiling your N-400 may not work and may not even be possible. If you are denied citizenship because you are deportable, you may end up in immigration court and have to fight to keep your lawful permanent resident status. If you are successful in court and get to keep your status, you can usually then apply for citizenship again.
The important thing to remember is that if your N-400 is denied, you have many options available to you. You can appeal the decision or you can refile your N-400. Maybe you have to go to immigration court and fight your case. Maybe you have to pay back income taxes or overdue child support in order qualify for citizenship. Maybe you have to spend more time in the United States and not take long trips abroad. It is always best to have a trusted and experienced immigration attorney by your side from the beginning of the N-400 process. However, if you filed your N-400 yourself or if you have lost faith in the attorney who filed your N-400 for you and you have received a denial letter, contact an experienced immigration attorney right away to discuss your options to still become a U.S. citizen.