There are a great many reasons why the USCIS might deny your application for citizenship — the conviction of a crime, overdue taxes, delinquent child support payments, being a “habitual drunkard”, adultery and even criminal acts that were never prosecuted can all justify a rejection. Nevertheless, there are ways to fight back if you are not ready to give up.

Filing an Appeal

If your Form N-400 citizenship application is denied, your first avenue of attack will be to appeal the decision by filing Form N-336 with the USCIS within 30 days of the date that your citizenship application was denied. A hearing before an USCIS officer should be scheduled within 180 days. The officer should be a different officer than the one who denied your original application, and he should be of equal or higher rank. You are allowed to bring your immigration lawyer with you.

What to Expect

The officer who hears your case is empowered to overturn the denial and accept your application for citizenship, uphold the denial and deny you citizenship, or hold a formal new hearing in which he considers new evidence.

If your appeal asserts no new facts and provides no new evidence, it is likely to be denied unless you can point to a clear error of fact or law made by the officer who rejected your initial application. Formerly, it was almost impossible to convince a USCIS officer to overturn the rejection of a citizenship application. Over the past few years, however, the situation has improved somewhat.

Important Matters to Consider

Consider the following before you file an N-336 appeal:

  • The filing fee for an appeal is $700 as of 2019. It might not be worth the money unless you have solid grounds for appeal.
  • If you were denied for insufficient knowledge of US history and government or inadequate English language skills, you might want to consider using the time between the initial denial and the appeal hearing to brush up on your skills. You could then request to be re-tested, and if the officer grants your request and you pass, the denial of your application could be overturned and you could be granted citizenship.
  • If your appeal is denied and you want to keep on fighting, you can always file a lawsuit against the USCIS in federal district court. The court will be obligated to take a fresh look at your case — it is not bound by USCIS precedent. If you lose in the district court, you can appeal the case to the federal appeals court.

Don’t forget that unless you committed a serious crime that would render you subject to deportation, the worst-case scenario is likely to be the rejection of your appeal, which would still allow you to file a new application for citizenship. If you are subject to a temporary bar, however, it may be pointless to submit a new citizenship application until the temporary bar expires (five years for most applicants).