If U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denies your N-400 Application for Naturalization, it will send you a Notice of Denial stating the factual and legal reasons for its decision. This notice will include a statement telling you that you have the right to accept the denial or to request a hearing before an Immigration Officer, using Form N-336 "Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings" under Section 336 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.).
The hearing would give you an opportunity to have your application for U.S. citizenship reviewed at an administrative level. If you believe that your application was denied for the wrong reasons, a hearing could be your best chance to prove this. But it could also be a waste of time. Here, we'll discuss whether requesting such a hearing is a good idea, or whether it makes more sense to simply start over with a new application for naturalized U.S. citizenship.
The most important factor you will need to consider before requesting a hearing is the reason for denial of your application for naturalized U.S. citizenship. When you prepare Form N-336, you'll need to also submit evidence and/or a legal brief that supports your position. You will want to feel confident that the USCIS officer was wrong and that you have the documentation to prove it. If you're just not sure, or actually realize that USCIS's decision was correct, filing a hearing might not be a productive path to take.
Another factor to consider is the deadline for requesting a hearing. You must file Form N-336 within 30 days of receiving the Notice of Denial. Is that enough time to collect the evidence you need? You can request an extension to this deadline, but you would need to show good cause. Extensions are not granted often by USCIS, so try to avoid relying on that option.
Another important consideration is whether to obtain legal assistance. If you want to request a hearing, an attorney can be a valuable, if not critical, resource. An attorney will analyze the reasons for your denial and assess your chances of success. An attorney can also prepare a legal brief and aid you in securing the evidence needed to support your case, as well as accompany you to the hearing when it is scheduled. Of course, you'll need to pay the attorney's fees.
Finally, consider the government fees involved in requesting a hearing on your naturalization case. Most applicants will have to pay a filing fee with Form N-336, currently $700 (2023 figure).
USCIS must schedule a hearing within 180 days of receiving a timely filed Form N-336. Your application will be assigned to a new officer—that is, one who did not examine your original application.
The officer will have the authority to review any part of the administrative record that was created as part of your initial examination, as well as request new evidence or testimony. After reviewing your case, the officer has discretion to conduct a full hearing as though a decision had never been made on the application (this type of hearing is referred to as de novo) or to utilize a less formal review procedure.
If USCIS denies your N-400 Application for Naturalization for reasons that do not make you inadmissible to the United States, you have the option to file a completely new application. Filing a new application will make more sense than requesting a hearing if your application was not wrongfully denied, or if the reason for the denial can be cured with time.
Instances where filing a new N-400 application might make the most sense include:
If time is an issue, filing a new application could be quicker than waiting for a hearing to be scheduled.
In any type of case that involves proving good moral character, and some that don't, creating a convincing argument before U.S. immigration authorities can require much more than just filling out forms. An experienced immigration attorney can help evaluate your situation, prepare arguments in the form of a cover letter or legal brief, accompanied by supporting evidence, and prepare you for any future in-person court appearances or interviews before U.S. government officials.