Why Citizenship May Be Denied – 7 Reasons You Need To Know

Of all the applications filed with the Immigration Service, many people find Form N-400 (Naturalization) to be the least complicated. This may have been true at one time, but over the past few years this form has grown from 4 pages, to 21 pages long!

Many people attempt to fill in this form on their own, and then have no real idea why they were denied.  When you say that it does not look too tough to become a US citizen, you may be overlooking many significant details that might impede your entry into the US. Many of the reasons listed below are something that a good lawyer could help with. If you fall into any of the categories listed below don’t give up, contact a top immigration lawyer right away!


1. Selective Service.  Males between ages 18 and 26 are required to register for Selective Service.  If a citizenship applicant has failed to do so, his case may be denied.  The time to refile would usually be at age 31.  But there may be exceptions, as there are with all rules.

2. Fraud before green card.  Very often, Immigration takes a look back at a naturalization applicant’s whole history.  If the officer determines that a green card was issued (even many years before) in a fraudulent manner, citizenship may be denied.  Even if the fraud was an innocent mistake, the case can be denied.  Worst case scenario – service of papers to appear before a Judge in deportation (removal) proceedings.

3. Crimes. Be very careful. I have seen so many people who were told “not to worry” about a criminal record by another lawyer.  A true expert in immigration law needs to review every arrest, every citation, and every violation of law on your record.  There are many criminal offenses which have more than consequences of citizenship denial.  In fact, just like with fraud, a crime committed by a would-be citizen could be grounds for a hearing in Immigration Court.

4. Lying.  Here we are talking about questions on the N-400 Application for Naturalization and answers that the Immigration Service deems to be deceptive or outright false.  Some people, for example, might check off the “NO” box to a question about being arrested because they were not convicted of a crime.  This error may be innocent.  Immigration will not care.  The result – citizenship may be denied.

5. Taxes.  Failure to pay taxes is a very common ground for denial.  Make sure that you talk to an outstanding immigration lawyer (and a good accountant) if you are trying to straighten out overdue taxes.  Often an effort to make an IRS payment plan might satisfy Immigration.

6. Child support. Very similar to the delinquent taxpayer, one who fails to make timely child support payments could find himself staring at a denial of his N-400.

7. English.  This one sounds simple, right?  You have to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency in speaking, reading and writing English.  I always tell clients, “you do not have to be Shakespeare, but you must have a basic command of the language.”  Fortunately there are many study aids.  The other options are for applicants over age 55 with 15 years on a green card or over age 50 with 20 years as a lawful permanent resident.  Those folks can take the civics and history test with a translator.  Also, there is a medical disability waiver which is useful for persons affected by serious conditions that impact their being able to pass the test.  This waiver, the N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exception must be completed thoroughly by a doctor qualified to address why the applicant is disabled and why he cannot understand portions or all of the examination.

As always, the above reasons show why you need the best counsel that you can find in an immigration case.  The stakes are too high. 

And as I like to remind all, this information is not intended to be formal legal advice.  For that, please talk to a top immigration attorney.

Harlan York, the #1 Immigration Attorney. Your best choice for an Immigration Attorney if you live in Somerset County, NJ (Bound Brook, Somerset, and South Bound Brook).


Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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