Reasons for Denial of Citizenship

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To obtain citizenship, you must have lived in the United States for at least five years.
To obtain citizenship, you must have lived in the United States for at least five years. (Image: Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

To understand why citizenship applications are denied, you must understand what makes someone eligible for U.S. citizenship. While the subsequent criteria may well be met, there can still be a number of reasons that an application for nationality is denied. However, there are options to reapply for citizenship once you are denied.

Disqualification

To be eligible for citizenship you must be at least 18 and a resident of the U.S. for five years or the spouse of a citizen for at least three years. You also must have resided in or worked in the U.S. state where you're seeking citizenship for the last three months. You must have a good moral disposition and been present in the United States for at least half of the five- or three-year residency. If you do not meet these qualifications you can be denied citizenship.

Language Abilities

Perhaps the most common reason a citizenship applicant is denied is lack of proficiency in the English language. There exceptions, however. A 20-year U.S. resident who is 50 or older or a 15-year resident 55 or older can usually gain citizenship without being able to speak English. In these cases applicants apply for citizenship and receive the citizenship tests in their native language.

Lack of Good Moral Character

Applicants with a minor criminal record can be denied their petition for citizenship. People on probation will most likely be denied citizenship. Those with a minor criminal record can usually file a second application for citizenship if they are denied the first time. Applications are judged on a case-by-case basis, so there are no universal rules regarding people with minor criminal records. Evidence considered in these cases includes the number of convictions, the severity of the crimes and the time span between convictions. In addition, community involvement, work and family history also are evaluated. Letters of reference can be accepted in addition to testaments of good moral character. Immigrants can hire immigration lawyers if they believe citizenship applications will be particularly arduous.

Reapplying for Citizenship

When you're denied citizenship for these reasons, you sometimes can be reconsidered by an appeals committee. People convicted of serious crimes may be barred from citizenship for life, but they must wait at least three to five years after being denied citizenship before reapplying.

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