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4 Issues That Will Affect Your U.S. Citizenship Application

Applications for U.S. citizenship (or naturalization) can be denied for a variety of reasons. While the naturalization process can be long and confusing, it is helpful if green card holders seeking citizenship are aware of the following four common application issues and how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) addresses them.


If USCIS discovers that an applicant owes back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), his or her application for citizenship will likely be denied. However, tax issues are not an automatic bar to naturalization. Applicants who can show that they're making an effort to resolve their tax issues (for example, by enrolling in an IRS payment plan) may still be eligible for naturalization. USCIS has discretion when making this decision and considers whether the applicant entered into a payment plan voluntarily and then made an effort to become current. As a result, it's a good idea to contact the IRS and work to resolve any tax issues that you might have as soon as possible.

Child Support

Parent applicants are required to prove that they financially support their minor children who do not live with them. If a court has ordered an applicant to pay child support, then the applicant must provide evidence showing that he or she is in compliance with that order. Applicants who are delinquent with their child support payments may be denied citizenship, however, owing back child support isn't an automatic bar to naturalization. If the applicant willfully failed to support any dependents, then his or her application for citizenship will be denied. On the other hand, parent applicants who can provide a reasonable explanation as to why they are behind on their child support payments may still be able to naturalize.

Selective Service

In order to be eligible for naturalization, applicants must be willing to support and defend the United States and the Constitution. One way in which applicants show their dedication is to register with the Selective Service System, if required to do so. Male green card holders who are 18 to 25 years old are required to register and must provide their Selective Service Number along with their application for citizenship. If you're required to register and have not done so, register at a U.S. Post Office or on the Selective Service System's website. If you were required to register but failed to do so before you turned 26, you must fill out and submit the Selective Service System's Request for Status Information Letter, and then submit your statute information letter to USCIS.

Can't find your Selective Service number? Call 1-847-688-6888.

 Good Moral Character

Applicants for naturalization must also demonstrate that he or she is a person of good moral character (GMC). Some moral character issues permanently bar the applicant from being eligible for citizenship, while others act only as a temporary bar. USCIS mostly looks at the applicant's conduct during the five years before applying for citizenship; however, earlier conduct can also be considered.

To determine whether an applicant has good moral character, USCIS runs a criminal background check and attempts to determine if the applicant has lied during the naturalization process:

  • Criminal Record: Applicants who have been convicted of certain crimes (e.g. murder or any other aggravated felony) are barred (or ineligible) for citizenship. However, other crimes prevent the offender from qualifying for naturalization for a specified period of time after committing the offense.
  • Lying: Applicants who are caught lying on their naturalization application, or during their naturalization interview, will be denied citizenship (or if the applicant has already naturalized, their citizenship may be taken away).

The term "good moral character" is fairly broad and USCIS has also provided the following examples of other issues that might demonstrate a lack of good moral character:

  • Any crime against a person with intent to harm
  • Any crime against property of the Government that involves fraud or an evil intent
  • Two or more crimes for which the aggregate sentence was five years or more
  • Violating any controlled substance law
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Illegal gambling
  • Prostitution
  • Polygamy
  • Lying to gain immigration benefits
  • Failing to pay court-ordered child support or alimony payments
  • Imprisonment for 180 days or more during the past five years
  • Failing to complete any probation, parole, or suspended sentence
  • Terrorist acts, or
  • Persecution of anyone because of race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or social group

4 Issues That Will Affect Your U.S. Citizenship Application: More Resources

Get Legal Help with Your Citizenship Application

Being a U.S. citizen is a dream for many people, and if you're one of those people, it's important for you to know if there are any issues that will affect your U.S. citizenship application. Get in touch with an immigration attorney who can answer questions about your eligibility for U.S. citizenship and help you with the paperwork involved in applying for citizenship.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with the citizenship process.

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