Can I Ask USCIS to Make a Quick Decision on My Citizenship Application?

USCIS will expedite processing of applications for naturalized citizenship for people whose SSI benefits are about to expire, and might also expedite processing for people in certain situations involving an emergency or an important government interest.

By , J.D., UC Davis School of Law

You might have heard that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sometimes guarantees a decision on an application with 15 days (via "premium processing") if the applicant pays an extra fee. Unfortunately, premium processing is not available for applications for naturalization (U.S. citizenship).

Under certain circumstances, however, you can still ask USCIS to make a decision on your naturalization application as soon as possible ("expedite" your processing). USCIS might agree to move your application to the front of the line for the reasons described in this article, including:

  • the imminent expiration of your SSI benefits
  • emergencies or humanitarian reasons
  • national interest, or
  • to make up for USCIS's earlier mistake.

It's up to you to convince USCIS that you have one of those reasons. If you don't, you have no chance. Even if you do, there's nothing in the law that requires USCIS to expedite processing of your application.

Expediting U.S. Citizenship If Your SSI Benefits Are About to Expire

The one situation in which USCIS will definitely agree to expedite processing of an application for naturalization is where you are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, those benefits will be cut off within a year if you don't become a citizen, and USCIS has had your application for at least four months already.

In this situation, you will need to tell USCIS that your SSI benefits are about to expire so it knows that it should hurry up its processing of your application. You can do this by getting in touch with the USCIS Contact Center. Ideally, you'll want to get through the recorded material to a live person, though it probably won't happen on the first call. The best one can usually hope for is a call-back, which is why it's best to call first thing in the morning and make sure you'll be able to pick up your phone that day.

The person you eventually speak to might make an appointment for you to visit a local USCIS office. Writing to your local USCIS field office is also a possibility, as is requesting an in-person appointment via USCIS's online "My Appointment" system.

Either way, you will need a copy of your most recent letter from the Social Security Administration indicating when your SSI benefits will end. Show or give a copy of that letter to USCIS, and explain that your SSI benefits will be terminated within one year or less and that your naturalization application has been pending for four months or more. Ask USCIS to "expedite" processing of your application.

Expediting U.S. Citizenship for Emergency or Humanitarian Reasons

Other reasons USCIS might be willing to expedite processing of your naturalization application are:

  • severe financial loss to you or your business if you don't become a citizen right away
  • any kind of emergency situation that requires you to become a U.S. citizen right away (like you are gravely ill and hope to become a citizen before your health deteriorates), or
  • "humanitarian" reasons (like a war is breaking out; though in reality, there are few situations where granting you U.S. citizenship right away will prevent someone's suffering).

In preparation to request an expedite on one of these grounds, gather documentation to prove the issue. For example, in the case of financial loss, you'd want to supply financial statements or an auditor's report. In the case of a health emergency, ask your doctor for a letter describing the problem. You'll need to decide what the most convincing, authoritative form of proof is. Also see Creating Substitute Documents or Affidavits for Immigration Applications.

Expediting U.S. Citizenship for National Interest Reasons

In rare situations, the U.S. Department of Defense or another U.S. government agency might request that you become a U.S. citizen right away as a matter of national interest. In such a case, the DOD or other agency should supply you with a request letter or otherwise request USCIS's cooperation.

Expediting U.S. Citizenship Based on USCIS's Previous Mistake or Similar Considerations

If USCIS denied your previous application for naturalization or has been delaying your current one based on a mistake, that's grounds for requesting that it expedite processing of your request. In some cases, USCIS might even expedite processing of your application for its own reasons or of its own accord.

Making an Expedite Request to USCIS

To request expedited processing of your naturalization application, you can either go through the USCIS Contact Center (800-375-5283) or write a letter to your local USCIS field office (the one handling your N-400 application). You might also try requesting an in-person appointment via USCIS's online "My Appointment" portal; this isn't guaranteed, they'll evaluate your need after you submit the request.

Be ready to prove the reason you need expedited processing with documentation backing up your statements.

Getting Legal Help

If the measures described in this article aren't getting results from USCIS, and you still need to naturalize as soon as possible, consult an experienced immigration attorney.

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