What happens if a permanent resident’s citizenship application is denied?

After an individual has resided in the United States with permanent residency status for five years, they can apply for citizenship. However, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may deny an application for a variety of reasons. Denial of a citizenship application will have no effect on the applicant’s permanent residency status unless the cause for denial is also grounds for removal.

One of the most common reasons for citizenship denial is failing the English and Civics Test portion of the application. This test not only requires an applicant to be knowledgeable about United States government and history, they must read and answer the questions in English. Another possible reason for denial is failing to meet physical presence requirements. An applicant must be physically present in the United States for at least five years prior to applying. Although a permanent residency is permitted to travel outside the country, any time spent abroad does not count towards these five years. Another common reason for denial is a lack of “good moral character”, meaning an applicant has been convicted of certain crimes.

Most causes of denial will not endanger an applicant’s green card. This includes failing the English and Civics Test, inadequate evidence to support required time spent in the United States, or applying too early. In these cases, an applicant will not lose their permanent residency status. However, certain causes of denial can endanger an applicant’s permanent residency status. Committing crimes, breaking U.S. immigration laws, and abandoning residency are just a few examples of situations that would lead to an applicant’s green card being revoked.

There are two main kinds of legal motions that can be made if a citizenship application is denied: a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider. Permanent residents considering either route should consult with an experienced immigration attorney beforehand. A motion to reopen should only be used if there is new evidence that would greatly impact the case. The same officer who evaluated the original application will determine if the new evidence warrants a reversal of the citizenship denial. A motion to reconsider is used when the applicant believes that the evaluating officer made an error when issuing the denial. In this case, the applicant will have to prove that the law was applied incorrectly and that their application should in fact be approved.