U.S. Law Center

About 78,000 applications for naturalization are denied each year

About 650,000 green card holders in California and around the country are waiting for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to respond to their applications for naturalization, and many of them are likely to be disappointed when their paperwork is processed. Between 2009 and 2018, immigration authorities denied approximately 78,000 applications for naturalization each year. Applications are routinely denied because immigrants are unable to pass a civics test, they do not possess basic English language skills, or background checks uncover grounds for refusing U.S. citizenship.

Those who submit applications for naturalization can expect a long wait. Immigration offices around the country report waiting times of between 6 and 18 months to process N-400 Applications for Naturalization. In addition to completing the application form, those hoping to be granted U.S. citizenship must pay a $640 fee and an additional $85 to be fingerprinted and have their photograph taken. The Trump administration has proposed increasing the application fee to $1,170.

These costs and waiting times deter many permanent residents from seeking U.S. citizenship. Others choose not to submit N-400 forms because they have criminal records, they have provided immigration authorities with false information or they owe taxes or child support. For some permanent residents, the benefits of being a citizen compared to a green card holder do not justify subjecting themselves to the additional scrutiny involved.

Attorneys with experience in immigration cases may help permanent residents to avoid problems with their citizenship applications by ensuring that their N-400 forms are completed and submitted properly. Attorneys might also help those who apply for naturalization to prepare for their citizenship interviews and civics tests. If applications for naturalization are denied, attorneys may help permanent residents to complete N-336 forms to appeal the decision. Those who wish to pursue an appeal should act without delay as N-336 forms must be submitted within 30 days.

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