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?
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 but also 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 being deportable from the United States.
There's also a lesser known problem that can arise when someone spends 180 days or more outside the U.S. or does something illegal during an overseas trip, then was "inadmissible" upon reentry. Perhaps, for instance, the person tried to smuggle drugs, or had been committed of one of various types of crimes (before or after departing the U.S.), or developed a communicable disease of public health significance. Then the border officer simply didn't notice, and let the person in despite the fact that inadmissibility should have barred this entry. This situation is grounds for deportation.
See an attorney if there’s any chance that any of these grounds for denial of naturalized U.S. citizenship might apply to you, or if you have additional questions or concerns about your case.