Steps to Take If Your Application for Naturalization is Denied
To obtain U.S. citizenship, you must file the N-400, Application for Naturalization. It is your burden to prove you are eligible for the benefit. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) only grants citizenship if you demonstrate your continuous residence, physical presence, good moral character, attachment to the principles of the Constitution, and favorable disposition to the United States. You must also meet procedural requirements in your filing of the N-400. Beginning May 5, 2014, USCIS will no longer accept older N-400 applications. The new form is longer and contains more questions. Sometimes it may be necessary to litigate these cases.
Criminal history can disqualify you for naturalization. You must prove to USCIS you possess “good moral character” for the statutory period of time immediately preceding the date of filing. If you have ever committed a crime, it is very possible that USCIS will still deny your application if the “conviction” occurred within the statutory time period. USCIS (specifically in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati) considers the conviction itself to be proof of poor moral character regardless of when the underlying acts took place. This position lacks legal foundation and should be challenged.
Requesting a Rehearing
If denied citizenship, you may request a rehearing before an immigration officer. To request a rehearing on a decision in naturalization proceedings, you must file the Form N-336 within 30 calendar days of receiving your N-400 denial notice. You should also consider filing this request with a supplemental brief on the legal issues and additional evidence to strengthen your case.
Assuming you have filed your request properly, USCIS must schedule the rehearing within 180 days. The immigration officer assigned to your case will examine your request including the legal brief and all other evidence submitted along with your previously denied N-400 application. If the immigration officer agrees with the original denial, this means that your application is still denied but you may appeal that decision.
Petitioning for Judicial Review
If denied the N-400 and the N-336, then you may petition for judicial review with the appropriate federal district court. In general, you should file such this petition for judicial review within 120 days of the date of the N-336 denial notice. This means a federal district judge will conduct a bench trial on your case. The judge will make his or her own findings of fact and conclusions of the law. This means USCIS is no longer in control of the proceedings. This means how USCIS felt about you and your case must now be proven in court. Winning your case here can lead to the government paying your legal fees!