If my citizenship is denied, will my green card be cancelled, too?

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Question:

I’ve been a permanent resident for many years, and would like to finally apply for U.S. citizenship. However, a friend of mine told me about someone he knew who not only got denied citizenship, but got deported home afterward! Could this happen to me?

Answer:

In most cases, the reasons that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would deny a citizenship application have nothing to do with the person’s underlying eligibility for a green card, and thus would not result in deportation. If, for example, the person fails the English exam or the U.S. government and history exam; cannot show that he or she was continuously resident in the U.S. for the requisite number of years; applied too early; or is otherwise ineligible to advance from lawful permanent residence to citizenship, the usual result would be that USCIS simply denies the application and the person continues to be a lawful permanent resident.

(In fact, if the reason for not passing  the first interview is that the person did not pass the test of either English or the U.S. government and history, USCIS will give that person a second chance, and schedule a followup interview, as described in, "Second Chances If Naturalization Not Approved at First USCIS Interview.")

There are, however, exceptions. If the reason for denial is that USCIS discovers, during the review of the applicant’s immigration file, that the applicant did not qualify for a green card in the first place – for example, because he or she committed fraud in obtaining the green card – then USCIS could not only deny citizenship or place the person in removal proceedings. The same goes if USCIS discovers that the applicant spent so much time outside the U.S. that he or she appears to have abandoned U.S. residency altogether, or has committed a crime that results in the person becoming deportable from the United States. See an attorney if there’s any chance that any of these grounds for denial might apply to you, or if you have additional questions or concerns about your case.

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