If USCIS denies a foreign national’s application for citizenship, they will provide a Notice of Denial to the foreign national that will explain the basis for the denial. As stated in the Notice, you can either accept the denial (and potentially file a new application) or request a hearing before a USCIS officer regarding the denial. This involves submitting a Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Form N-336). You can argue that USCIS inappropriately denied your application for citizenship at this administrative hearing. However, requesting a hearing is not always the right decision if you disagree with the denial. Sometimes it makes more sense to file a new application instead.
The Process of Requesting a Hearing
You may want to request a hearing if you strongly believe that USCIS was wrong, and you can supply documents that show its mistake. With Form N-336, you can submit a legal brief that explains how USCIS made an error, as well as any further evidence to support your arguments. An attorney can assist you with this process and can advise you on whether your appeal is likely to succeed. They also can represent you at the hearing.
You will need to submit Form N-336 within 30 days of receiving the denial notice from USCIS. If 30 days does not give you enough time to gather and submit the necessary evidence, you can ask for an extension of time, but you will need to show good cause. USCIS tends to be reluctant to grant extensions, so you may not want to request a hearing if you cannot get the evidence within 30 days. You will need to pay a filing fee with Form N-336, which costs several hundred dollars.
Once you file Form N-336, USCIS will schedule a hearing within 180 days. A USCIS officer who is different from the officer who denied the original application will review the application and the related administrative record. The officer may ask you to provide more evidence or testimony. They might conduct a full hearing on the denial, known as de novo review, which involves reviewing the application as though it had not yet been denied. In other cases, the officer may conduct a more streamlined type of review.
When Filing a New Application Makes Sense
Sometimes a foreign national should file a new application instead of appealing a denial, especially if they need some time to address the reason for the denial or if the denial may have been legitimate. If you failed one of the tests for citizenship at both your initial naturalization interview and your second chance interview, you may want to wait to file again until you have spent more time studying for the test. If you failed to meet the continuous residence or physical presence requirement, you may need to simply wait until you have accumulated enough time in the U.S. to meet it, unless you fit within one of the exceptions. If you were denied on the basis of lacking good moral character, you may want to wait to reapply until enough time has expired since the incident giving rise to the denial. (Usually, this will be about five years.)
Contrary to what you might expect, it is often faster to file a new application than to request a hearing after a denial. This may play a role in your decision if you want to get citizenship as soon as you can.