Second Chances If Naturalization Not Approved at First USCIS Interview

Do your best to prepare for the first naturalization interview, but don't panic if USCIS doesn't approve your U.S. citizenship application right away.

By , Attorney · Temple University School of Law

There are many reasons why a U.S. immigration officer might be unable to approve an application for U.S. citizenship at the first naturalization interview. For example, if you are the applicant, you might have failed the English or civics test, or forgotten 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 one or more of the naturalization tests, you might have submitted the wrong edition of the Form N-648 that applicants must use to ask for a waiver.

Whatever the reasons for the denial, failing to gain approval at the first naturalization interview is not necessarily the end of the line. Here's what to do if either you or your foreign-born relative is facing this situation.

Ask for USCIS's Reasons for Denying Naturalization 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 "Request for Evidence" (RFE) on 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 USCIS officer wants in order to make a final decision on the naturalization application. The N-14 will also tell you how and when USCIS wants to receive the items, either:

  • by mail by a certain date, or
  • in person, at the next USCIS 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 USCIS officer is asking for, politely ask the officer to rewrite the request. If the officer does not comply, ask to talk to a supervisor.

Respond Adequately to the USCIS Request

If the officer asks for additional documents to be sent 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 USCIS 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 some other rapid delivery service that provides proof of mailing and a receipt.

Such careful tracking is important in case USCIS doesn't act on your follow-up information in a timely fashion.

Study to Retake the Naturalization Exams

It is possible that everything is fine with your N-400 application and basic eligibility, but that you did not pass the naturalization test of your English language ability and knowledge of U.S. history and civics. Fortunately, you will be given a second interview within the next 60 to 90 days. (See 8 C.F.R. § 312.5(a) and 8 C.F.R. § 335.3(b).)

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 Naturalization Exams

Perhaps 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 did not give your relative "due consideration" by taking into account 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 rendering them be unable to pass the naturalization test because of a disability or impairment.

If your relative falls into the second bullet-point description above, applying for a disability waiver of the naturalization test might make sense. See Waivers for Age or Disability When Applying for Citizenship for more information.

If you or your relative just ended up with a hostile or 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 USCIS officer, or a different officer who is not accommodating, you can always ask to talk to a supervisor. If the USCIS officer claims that the supervisor is not available or makes you wait for hours, try talking to a different officer when they come out to the waiting area.

Once you are with a supervisor, politely explain how hard your relative has been studying and explain that your believe 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. Also consider having an attorney come to the second interview.

Getting Legal Help

Although an attorney can't help applicants overcome a lack of basic citizenship eligibility or ability to pass the exams, the attorney can provide important support at an interview, and ensure that the appropriate procedures are complied with. See How to Find a Good Immigration Lawyer For Your Case.

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