When can an application for U.S. Citizenship be denied?

In this episode, Attorney Jacob J. Sapochnick discusses the top 7 reasons why citizenship applications are denied. We outline the top 7 reasons below.


There are several reasons why an N-400 application can be denied. The most common reason an application may be denied is because the applicant failed to meet the minimum requirements of the N-400 application for naturalization. Other reasons may include that the applicant has a bad moral character, an excessive number of absences from the country, a combination of both of these factors, an issue with taxes, child support, etc. It is important to be aware that officers at an immigration interview have a broad range of discretion in deciding whether to approve or deny your application. Always be prepared for potential issues that may arise during your interview.

Top 7 reasons why citizenship applications are denied:

  • Selective Service: Males between ages 18 and 26 are required to register for the Selective Service. Failure to do so, or to not have a valid reason for not registering for Selective Service may result in a denial
  • Fraudulently obtaining a green card: Immigration officials scrutinize an individual’s citizenship application very closely. This means that more often than not immigration officials take a careful and detailed look into the applicant’s immigration history including how they obtained their permanent residence and potential red flags in the applicant’s file
  • Serious Crimes: Committing certain crimes (especially crimes of moral turpitude) can make an individual ineligible for citizenship
  • Lying: An individual caught lying to an immigration officer will likely be sanctioned by the immigration officer in the form of an immigration violation or worse
  • Taxes: Individuals owing back taxes are not considered persons of good moral character because they have not abided with the law in paying their taxes. If you owe back taxes your application will likely be denied
  • Child Support: Similar to the above
  • English: In order to be eligible for citizenship, the applicant must satisfy the language requirement. Applicants must be able to read, write, speak, and understand the English language, although exemptions exist for certain applicants.

What Happens When a Denial is Issued?

Typically when a denial is issued the applicant has a right to a hearing on form N-336. This form gives the applicant the right to request a hearing before an immigration officer to rebut any of the issues that were raised in your denial. It is strongly recommended that an attorney with knowledge of the N-400 requirements accompanies the applicant to the N-336 hearing. Alternatively, you may be eligible to re-apply for naturalization once you have cured the issue that prevented you from obtaining citizenship in the first place.

Applying for citizenship is not a right, it is a privilege. If the government feels that you do not meet the requirements for naturalization, it is your job to provide compelling evidence that you do meet the naturalization requirements and convince the immigration officer that your petition should be approved.

For more information about the application for naturalization please read our helpful guide here.

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