You likely waited months—maybe even years—for an approval from USCIS for your citizenship application. If you worked diligently to gather paperwork, prepare for your interview, and complete the entire process by the book, receiving a denial may have been devastating. Due to stories in the news of permanent residents forced to leave the country, you may fear that the life you’ve built here in the United States is at risk.
But a rejection letter from USCIS is not the end of the road. You still have options, and understanding what each choice entails will help you protect your future and, ultimately, achieve your immigration goals.
If your citizenship application was denied, you have three basic options:
- Do nothing
- Appeal the denial
According to data from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, more than half of those who appeal each year succeed, but only 6% attempt to do so. This suggests that many permanent residents who were denied naturalization may be missing the opportunity to overturn the decision.
Nevertheless, everyone has unique circumstances that dictate whether appealing is the best possible decision. The reason(s) your application was denied should be listed on the notice, and they will be key to determining which path to take.
Appealing a Citizenship Denial
Appealing a citizenship denial is called an administrative appeal, a process in which you request a hearing with an immigration officer. This immigration officer will notbe the same person who rejected your application.
At or before the hearing, you can submit any evidence you believe is relevant to your case. The best way to improve your chances of approval is to submit briefs, written statements, and additional evidence demonstrating your eligibility and qualifications for citizenship.
Generally, you should appeal a naturalization denial if you believe USCIS made a mistake or did not have enough evidence to make an informed decision. For example, you may have been forced to take the civics exam even though your disability should have waived this obligation. If you believe the immigration officer did not observe citizenship eligibility laws, you can draft a summary explaining their mistake and the laws they ignored. A skilled lawyer can assist you with this process or complete it on your behalf.
The notice you received will specify how long you’ll have to request a hearing. The window to do so is usually 30 days (or 33 days if USCIS mailed the rejection notice). Requesting a hearing outside of this time frame will result in an automatic denial.
Difference Between an Appeal and a Motion
While an appeal is a request for a different officer to review your application, a motion aims to overturn the decision but does not seek a new pair of eyes.
The two types of motions are:
- Motion to reconsider: a request for the office to review its decision because it allegedly ignored or misapplied laws or facts
- Motion to reopen: a request for the office to review its decision in light of new evidence you submitted after the initial application
As with appeals, you will have 30 days to file a motion.
When It May Be Best to Wait and Reapply
While reapplying means repeating all the hassles you had to experience on the first try, sometimes this is the best course of action.
One major risk of appealing the denial, for instance, is that USCIS may unearth certain factors warranting a removal proceeding. For example, the immigration officer may discover that your green card application was fraudulent, or that you committed a crime that makes you deportable.
Here are a few scenarios when it may be best to wait and reapply instead of appeal:
- You failed the English or Civics Test
- You made errors on the original documentation
- You need more time to collect evidence demonstrating your good moral character
- You committed a crime within the statutory period (i.e. last five years), and reapplying when time has gone by will render this history less relevant to the immigration officer
- You haven’t met the physical presence and/or continuous residence requirements
Whether you appeal, file a motion, or reapply at a later time, you may still have the opportunity to become a citizen. Deciding the best possible method will take preparation and support from a professional.
Contact Us Today to Discuss Your Options
The only way to ensure you choose the best way forward is to obtain qualified counsel from an experienced attorney. At Gambacorta Law, our immigration lawyers in Skokie are fully prepared to assess your unique circumstances, provide effective counsel, and represent you in a court of law.
Don’t give up hope. Contact us today by calling (847) 443-9303 or scheduling your consultation.