Written by attorney Carina Castaneda

Appealing a Citizenship Denial

If your citizenship application is denied by a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer, you may ask for review and appeal the decision. The Form N-336 (Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings) must be filed. I had just successfully represented a client in Phoenix, Arizona who was denied citizenship due to two criminal arrests out of Phoenix and Santa Cruz County in California.

Like many who have had prior criminal arrests and/or convictions, documentation will be required by USCIS. Note, they will request the police reports from the arresting agency, all court documents, and letter(s) from the prosecutorial agency, all of which must be certified. This is a daunting task. While all these documents are generally public records and may be subpoenaed, sending the proper requests is often a difficult hurdle for an applicant to fully comply with if he/she is not assisted by an experienced criminal defense attorney.

My client was denied solely in his inability to provide all documents that would evidence that both arrests were subsequently dismissed. Moreover, while he was represented by an attorney in one of his criminal case, his attorney did not provide him with any documentation about his case. Understandably, he was very disappointed in the decision of the denial of his citizenship. He came to my office wanting help in how he can properly submit Form N-336 and secure a right to have a hearing and have the prior decision overturned.

You must file a request for an administrative review within a certain time period of the date you are notified of the denial of your citizenship application. Additionally, you must mail the request to the same USCIS district office that denied your application. A filing fee is required. A declaration must be attached and filed memorializing the reasons for the request for appeal.

A well-written brief with additional evidence in support of your N-336 request should be carefully prepared by a qualified attorney since USCIS could reject your request for an administrative review. Due to my seventeen years of criminal experience, I knew the obstacles that my client would be confronted with in obtaining all the certified documents pertaining to his arrests in two counties and in two states. I underscored the tremendous amount of documentary requirements that state and county agencies would require from my law office and specifically detailed that I would need to contact the police agency, the Superior Courts, and the District Attorneys of Phoenix and Capitola counties.

Moreover, since the USCIS officer who denied the initial application wanted plea forms and post-conviction documentation, I requested a hearing to be held in order to advise USCIS that these request are moot since there were no convictions in my client’s case. As I mentioned many times before, the criminal arena is specialized and a criminal lawyer must be hired to adequately explain the nuances of the workings of criminal law.

In my case and after months of contacting all the county agencies and getting the prosecutors to write a letter that both cases did not conclude in a conviction, one was dismissed for witness unavailability and the other for lack of sufficient evidence, my client and I were prepared and ready for the hearing at Phoenix. The second hearing officer was convinced of good moral character and recommended citizenship for my client. He will be taking the oath prior to the holidays.

If your citizenship application remains denied after filing the N-336, you may ask a federal district court to review you application. To seek judicial review, a petition must be properly and adequately filed in the district court where you live. The Court will review the application de novo (from the beginning). The regulations require that you file a petition for review within 120 days after the final administrative denial of your citizenship application. However, the 10th circuit (Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah) has a 6 year statute of limitations to a petition for review.

Clearly, the process of appealing a denial of citizenship is complex and technical. A skilled attorney is a must if you want to successfully appeal a prior administrative hearing officer’s decision. It is worth the investment to hire an experienced attorney to insure that you become a United States citizen.

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