There are many reasons why an officer might be unable to approve an application for U.S. citizenship at the first naturalization interview. For example, you might have failed pass the English or civics test, or to include a relevant document such as a copy of your divorce certificate. Or, if you are helping a disabled relative apply for citizenship by requesting a disability waiver of the naturalization test(s), you may have submitted the wrong edition of the Form N-648 that applicants must use to ask for a waiver.
Whatever the reasons, failing to gain approval at the first interview is not necessarily the end of the line. Here's what to do if you or your relative is facing this situation.
Ask for the Reasons in Writing
Make sure that the officer of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has given you or your relative a “results sheet.” If the officer is asking for new documents, forms, or information, the officer should also complete and give you what's called a “Form N-14.”
The results sheet will show the outcome of the interview. It should indicate whether the USCIS officer gave the applicant a Form N-14. The Form N-14 will list any additional documents, forms, or information that the officer wants in order to make a final decision on the naturalization application. The N-14 will also tell you how and when immigration wants to receive the items:
by mail by a certain date; or
in person at the next interview.
Most importantly, the N-14 tells both you and the immigration officer who conducts the next interview or reviews the items that you send in by mail exactly what the first officer believed was missing. It is therefore very important that the information on Form N-14 is clear.
If you believe that the Form N-14 is not clear or do not understand what the officer is asking for, politely ask the officer to rewrite the request. If the officer ignores this request, ask to talk to a supervisor.
Respond Adequately to the USCIS Request
If the officer asks for additional documents by mail, make sure to include a copy of Form N-14. Also make sure to:
- mail in the submission so that it gets to immigration before the deadline shown on Form N-14 or on the interview results sheet; and
- send in the submission via certified mail, return receipt requested or through an overnight express mail service so that you will have proof of mailing and receipt.
Study to Retake the Naturalization Exams
It is also possible that everything is fine with your application, but you did not pass the naturalization test. Fortunately, you will be given a second interview within the next 90 days. If you just need to study a little bit more to be ready, you can prepare by checking out some of the resources at www.uscis.gov/citizenship.
Overcome Age or Disability as a Barrier to Passing the Exams
If you are helping out a relative who studied really hard to learn English but could not pass the naturalization test because either
- the immigration officer was impatient and unwilling to give your relative “due consideration” by taking into account your relative's age, hearing problems, or other needs when conducting the naturalization interview (as further described in the article, "Does Your Parent or Relative Qualify for a Disability Exception to the Citizenship Test?”); or
- your relative has medical problems that are more severe than you realized and may actually be unable to pass the naturalization test because of a disability or impairment.
If your relative falls into the second bullet-point description above, he or she should consider applying for a disability waiver of the naturalization test. See "Waivers for Age or Disability When Applying for Citizenship" for more information.
If you or your relative just ended up with an unfriendly and unaccommodating officer at the first interview, don't give up! The second interview is usually with a different officer, of whom you, your attorney, or your relative can ask “due consideration.”
And even if the second interview is with the same officer, or a different officer who is just as unfriendly, you can always ask to talk to a supervisor. If the officer claims that the supervisor is not available or makes you wait for hours to see a supervisor, try talking to a different officer when he or she comes out to the waiting area.
Once you are with a supervisor, politely explain how hard you or your relative has been studying and explain that the officer did not provide a fair chance to pass the naturalization test. If you are fortunate, the supervisor will be understanding and will allow another interview with a different officer. You should also consider having an attorney come to the second interview. Having an attorney along may make the USCIS interviewing officer more professional and accommodating. An attorney can also speak with a supervisor if the officer does not behave in a professional manner.