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Why do citizenship applications get denied?

Pat Malone • November 20, 2020

When you apply for citizenship, the USCIS will check if you qualify.* They will investigate for problems with your case. According to our expert legal partners, these are the top reasons why your case could be denied:

• If you fail the english and civics tests
• If you got your green card through fraud
• If you spend too much time outside the U.S.
• If you don't show "good moral character"

How to avoid getting your citizenship application denied:

1. Study for the English and civics test.

To qualify for citizenship, you must show you:
• speak, read, and write basic English
• know basic U.S. civics and history
There are exceptions for older and long-term green card holders.

USCIS has said it will test applicants at the beginning of the citizenship interview. About 90% of applicants pass the test. If you cannot pass the test, the interview may end. You can take the test a second time. Study and prepare for the test to avoid failure.

2. Review your immigration history.

The USCIS will use your fingerprints to check for all immigration records, including old records or records under a different name. They may look at your earlier applications, and check that your answers make sense and match other applications. The USCIS will investigate whether you got your green card through fraud. If you got your green card through marriage, they may review your relationship or marriage history. If you got your green card through political asylum, they may check on your associations.

Review your past applications to be prepared. Get legal help if you are worried about your immigration history.

3. Know the travel and residence rules.

A few different rules about living in the U.S. affect your eligibility for citizenship. If you have too much time outside the U.S., you could even lose your lawful permanent residence (green card) status.

To qualify and apply for citizenship:
• live in the U.S. for the past 5 years (or 3 years if you are married to a citizen)
• be in the U.S. for at least half that time (913 days)
• avoid any trips outside the U.S. that are longer than six months (to be safe)
• live for at least three months in the USCIS district or state where you will apply

For more information, click here for the USCIS (government) website.

4. Obey the law and stay out of trouble.

To qualify for citizenship, you must show you have "good moral character." This means you follow the law and meet community standards. It includes paying taxes and child support (if you have an order). The USCIS will use your fingerprints and investigate your "moral character." Check with a lawyer if you are not sure about arrests or other legal problems.

* Note: Most people who apply for citizenship are approved. In recent years, the approval rate has been about 90 percent.

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