What happens if I don't pass the citizenship interview?
After your citizenship interview, United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) will either grant or deny your application for citizenship. Sometimes USCIS will make a decision on the same day that you have your interview. If USCIS denies your application, you will be mailed Form N-14. This form explains why you were denied. Applicants are typically denied for 1 of 3 reasons.
Ineligibility to naturalize
The most common reason that USCIS denies citizenship applications is because the applicant is not actually eligible to naturalize. The basic eligibility requirements are:
- Be 18 years of age or older
- Have your green card for at least 3 years if your green card was granted through marriage to a U.S. citizen. Otherwise, have your green card for at least five years before applying for naturalization.
- Have continuous residence in the United States for at least five years before applying for naturalization.
- Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years of continuous residence.
- Be a person of good moral character.
The naturalization laws provide very specific rules about how to meet each requirement, and USCIS could deny your application if those rules are not satisfied. For instance, USCIS may deny your application on good moral character grounds if you have a criminal record.
If you are denied citizenship because you are not eligible, consult an attorney. If you have not been a permanent residence for enough time, you may just need to wait a few years to reapply. However, if there is something in your history that negatively impacts your moral character, you may need additional legal help.
Missing documents that USCIS needs
Another reason that USCIS could deny your application is if you fail to include necessary supporting documents.
Typically, you must include 2 passport photographs, a copy of your green card, evidence of your marriage to your US citizen spouse (if applicable), evidence that you meet the continuous residence and physical presence requirements, certified copies of criminal records, evidence of good moral character such as certificates from school or courses completed, and any affidavits necessary to explain certain answers to questions on your N-400.
To review everything you’ll need to include, see our checklist of Form N-400 supporting documents.
If you do not include some of the required supporting documents, USCIS may request that you send them within a certain number of days. If you do not, USCIS could deny your application on the basis of missing required documents.
Failing the English or civics test during your interview
The final stage of the naturalization process involves going to a citizenship interview where you must pass an English and a civics test.
If you fail either test the first time, USCIS will give you another opportunity to take the test, in an appointment several weeks after the interview that you failed. If you do not pass both tests, you cannot become a naturalized U.S. citizen, and USCIS will deny your application.
If you are denied citizenship, you are allowed to reapply immediately. However, if you were denied once, consider meeting with an immigration lawyer to review your case history. They can make sure you are eligible for citizenship and your application is complete.