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Top 5 Reasons For US Citizenship Application Denials At The Citizenship Interview

This article shares the top 5 reasons for US citizenship application denials during a citizenship interview.

The citizenship interview requires applicants to pass an English and Civics test to get US citizenship. The Civics test is essentially an oral examination that comes in the “Question and Answer” format. It is conducted by an immigration officer where he/she tests your knowledge of the country’s government and history. The USCIS officer can ask an applicant up to 20 Civics questions out of 120 during the citizenship interview. These questions are available to the applicants on the USCIS website to study for the examination. Furthermore, applicants can pass the Civics part of the test by answering 12/20 questions correctly.

Applicants must also demonstrate their English reading, speaking, and writing abilities during the interview. The USCIS officer conducts your entire interview in English, which essentially tests your ability to speak and understand English.. The USCIS officer then provides a sentence for you to read to test your reading skills. Finally, applicants also need to pass a writing test where they must write at least one out of three chosen sentences correctly. There should be no grammatical mistakes in the sentences.

Here are the top 5 reasons for US citizenship application denials at the citizenship interview:

  1. Failing The Civics & English Tests

The most common reason for the denial of naturalization applications is failing the Civics and English tests at the interview. It is noteworthy that although these tests seem quite easy, quite a few applicants fail the exam. It can be due to overestimating their ability in the subjects to pass the tests and not preparing adequately for the exam. Typically, failing the Civics or English part of the interview is not the end of the world. You can redo the exam after a period of 60 days from the interview date. That said, if you fail the exam again, your naturalization application will likely be denied, and you will be required to reapply later.

2. Denial Because Of Your Criminal Background

Your citizenship interview can be denied due to past criminal offenses. You are required to show good moral character in the last five years from the date you submitted your application. If you were arrested and convicted during the last five years, your application will automatically be denied. Certain offenses like DUIs, can be okay during the five-year period so long as you are no longer on probation. USCIS can also deny your application at the interview if you have convictions outside the five years that have severe consequences. These offenses include any crimes that may be considered aggravated felonies such as possession of drugs for sale, drug trafficking and murder. If you have previously been convicted of a serious crime, you must consult our office to determine how serious your conviction is and if it can be removed from your record before applying for US citizenship. We understand the impact of your criminal background on obtaining citizenship and have a vast experience dealing with such cases.

3. Failing To Show Physical & Continuous Presence In The Country

You must show your physical presence in the US for a minimum of 30 months in the five years before applying for citizenship. In addition to that, you must demonstrate your continuous residence in the country, which means that you have not traveled outside the US for over six months annually in the five years before your citizenship application. It is pertinent to note here that absences of over six months but less than a year can impact the continuous residence of an applicant. Moreover, absences of more than a year can also impact the continuous residence of an applicant. The application of naturalization asks applicants specific questions about the overseas trips made by them that lasted 24 hours or more.

Physical & Continuous Presence Exemptions

A few exceptions exist for the physical and continuous residence requirements for applicants who work overseas for the US government. This includes the US government contractors, the military, organizations that come under the International Immunities Act, and recognized institutions of public international organizations & research.

4. Failing To Meet All Your IRS Financial Obligations

If you need to pay your taxes to the IRS and have failed to pay what you owe them, it can lead to issues with your citizenship application. Unresolved and serious tax issues are one of the biggest reasons for the denial of citizenship applications. In the same vein, if you have any family obligations such as child support ordered by the court that have not been met by you, your application will not be approved. The reason for the denial is that failing to pay your taxes or child support demonstrates that you lack good moral character, which is required to have your application approved. While it is much better that you have resolved your tax issues or child support issues, it is not necessary for you to do so, to get an approval. So long as you can present to USCIS a letter from the IRS showing you are on a payment plan or from the court, your application will not be denied. It can be helpful to hire a tax attorney in such cases so that your tax problems can be resolved well before applying for US citizenship. If the court has ordered you to take care of child support, you can consult a family law attorney to resolve all the issues prior to filing for citizenship. Remember that these are all very serious problems that are not taken lightly by USCIS during the citizenship interview as they show you to be an unfit candidate to become a citizen of the United States.

5. Denial Because Of Misrepresentations and/or Fraud During The Interview

Finally, if USCIS believes that during the length of the interview, you have lied to them regarding any detail, the immigration officer can deny your citizenship application at his/her discretion. It is important to be consistent in the application forms and answer all questions honestly. Lying to a USCIS officer is the easiest way to get your application denied. Also, if your answers during the interview are inconsistent with the answers in the citizenship application, you will again be denied. Lastly, if you misrepresented facts in past applications to gain status, your application will be denied.


It is always a good idea to consult an immigration attorney before filing a citizenship application to understand the potential hurdles and circumvent them before they pose a problem. An experienced immigration attorney can help you understand the legalities and norms in place so that your application gets approved smoothly. For more details, get in touch with us at

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