How many times can I apply for U.S. citizenship?
Generally speaking, you can apply for citizenship as many times as you desire. If you apply once and USCIS denies your application, then there are several possibilities.
If USCIS denied your application for any reason.
If USCIS denied your application for any reason, then you can wait to reapply or exercise your right to appeal.
When USCIS denies your application, they will state the reason why and they will give you a date upon which you may reapply. Should you choose to reapply, you will have to go through the entire naturalization procedure all over again (i.e. file a new N-400, submit more photos and fingerprints, pay another application fee, etc.). If you believe that USCIS was mistaken in denying your application, then you may choose to exercise your right to appeal the USCIS officer’s decision.
Appealing USCIS’s denial of your application.
The first level of appeal will be to USCIS. Once you receive your notice that your naturalization application has been denied, you have thirty days (33 days if the notice of denial was mailed by USCIS) to file for an appeal.[i]
This 30 day window is extremely important regarding your right to appeal. If you miss the window by so much as one day, then you will lose your automatic right to an appeal and USCIS will treat your request as a motion to reconsider or a motion to reopen.[ii]
Each of these motions carries a higher burden for you to prove your case warrants an appeal and each of these are at the discretion of USCIS to review. If you have missed your thirty day window, but wish to appeal, then you should contact an immigration attorney today.
To begin the appellate process, you will need to file Form N-336 (Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings under Section 336 of the INA) within the thirty day time frame discussed above. Upon filing the appeal, USCIS has 180 days to schedule a hearing.[iii] This hearing will be administered by a different USCIS officer of equal or higher rank.[iv]
The hearing will be conducted de novo, meaning that the officer will look at your application as if it has never been reviewed before. The officer may elect to use a less formal review procedure based on the complexity of the issues to be reviewed and the necessity of conducting further examinations essential to the naturalization requirements.
The officer conducting the hearing will either:
- Affirm the findings in the denial and sustain the original decision to deny;
- Re-determine the original decision but deny the application on newly discovered grounds of ineligibility; or
- Re-determine the original decision and reverse the original decision to deny, and approve your naturalization application.
If the officer determines and reverses the original denial, then your application will be approved and you are one step closer to achieving citizenship. If, however, the officer affirms the denial or reverses the original denial but finds new ground for denial, then you may either reapply, or you may try to appeal the case to any Federal District Court with jurisdiction over the claim.[v]
If you are granted an appellate hearing by a Federal District Court, then the court will hear the case de novo.
If your application was denied by USCIS because you failed part of the naturalization exam.
If USCIS denied your application because you failed part of the naturalization exam, then you may generally reapply anytime afterwards. Before denying an application due to failure of any part of the exam, USCIS will give you a second opportunity to pass the failed portion.[vi] Thus, you will have two opportunities to pass the naturalization exam: once on your first interview, and a second time on your re-interview. If you fail again your second time, then you may either study up and reapply for naturalization (i.e. refile a N-400, get more photos and fingerprints, pay another fee, etc.) or you may seek an appeal of the USCIS officer’s decision.
The procedure for an appeal is the same as outlined above. However, if your appeal is based on the denial of your application due to you failing the naturalization exam, then the USCIS officer will administer any portion of the test that you previously failed.[vii] Unlike with your initial interview, you will only be given one chance to pass the failed portion of the test at your appellate hearing.
What should I do if I fail the naturalization exam two times?
If this is the reason that USCIS denied your application, then it is in your best interest to continue studying for the naturalization test. There are numerous study materials that can help you hone your skills before your third attempt at your appellate hearing or at your next attempt when reapplying. Many of these study sources are available online for free for both the Civics and English portions
Also, if you have not yet, you should consider whether you have a disability that impairs your ability to perform on the exam, or whether USCIS should afford you due consideration during the exam. You may be able to waive taking the exam or, at the very least, be eligible for an easier exam. Find more information here.
The naturalization process can be daunting, but the reward of U.S. citizenship is worth every step. Should things not work out the first time around consider the above options and try again. As America’s 16th President Abraham Lincoln once said, “always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.”
You can do it, and we believe in you!
[i] See 8 CFR 336.2
[ii] See 8 CFR 336.2(c)(2)(ii).
[iii] See 8 CFR 336.2
[iv] See 8 CFR 336.2(b).
[v] See INA 310(c); see also INA 336(a).
[vii] See id.