N-400 Pitfalls

Pitfall #1: Criminal History

As part of meeting the good moral character requirement, USCIS will obtain your biometrics and run a criminal background check for crimes committed in the U.S. as well as other countries.

Some crimes make an applicant temporarily ineligible for U.S. citizenship. In most of those cases, you can wait a required number of years – typically five years or three years for applicants married to and living with a U.S. citizen. While you may be eligible, the USCIS officer still has the discretion to make a decision if you meet the good moral character requirement.

However, if you have been convicted of a more serious crime, such as murder or aggravated felony, you will most likely be permanently denied U.S. citizenship. For more information on permanent bars to the good moral character requirement, visit Volume 12, Chapter 4 of the USCIS Policy Manual.

Even if you have some instances of misconduct in your past, we can help you show that you have reformed, and you may still be eligible for an immigration benefit such as cancellation of removal or withholding of removal.

Pitfall #2: Failed the English and/or Civics Test

If you fail the English and/or civics test in your initial interview, USCIS will schedule you to come back for another interview within 60-90 days of your first interview. USCIS will only retest you on the part of the test that you failed. However, USCIS will deny your Form N-400 if you fail the tests a second time.

For those without strong English skills, it is important to take time to study and be prepared.

Pitfall #3: Failure to Meet Continuous Residence and Physical Presence Requirements

Continuous residence means that the applicant has maintained residence within the United States for a specified period of time, generally 30 months before applying.

If you travel outside of the United States for periods longer than 6 months, your continuous residence will likely be disrupted. You will have to wait and restart your period of continuous presence before applying for U.S. citizenship.

Pitfall #4: Failure to Meet Financial Obligations

While debt is not a bar to naturalization, there are some financial issues that affect the moral character requirement and could interfere with your ability to naturalize as a U.S. citizen.

  • Failure to pay taxes is a very common reason to have Form N-400 denied, especially if you let the USCIS find the problem.
  • Willful failure to support dependents is another common issue. An applicant that fails to make timely child support payments could have the Form N-400 denied.

Tsang and Associates can help you develop a plan to pay the taxes or child support to demonstrate to USCIS that you’re fixing the problem.

Pitfall #5: Fraud and Lying to USCIS

Be honest with your answers to the USCIS. If USCIS believes that your answer to a question is deceptive or untrue, your Application for Naturalization will be delayed and could be denied. Even if the error was innocent, be sure that your application for naturalization is true and accurate when filed.

If you feel that an honest answer may create a problem with naturalization, you should speak with an attorney at Tsang and Associates before filing Form N-400. We will instruct you on how to navigate the possible problem.

Pitfall #6: Officer Believes Your Green Card is Unmerited

An application for U.S. citizenship gives the U.S. immigration authorities another chance to review your entire file. Occasionally, USCIS encounters instances where the applicant really shouldn’t have been given a green card.

For example, let’s say an applicant immigrated as the unmarried child of a U.S. citizen – but was in fact married when he or she immigrated. This applicant may, on the N-400 application, unthinkingly put down his or her actual marriage date. If USCIS notices that this date was before the applicant’s receipt of the green card, it may ask further questions, and ultimately place the applicant in removal proceedings. Once stripped of the green card, the applicant will have no more right to U.S. citizenship.