Sun | Sep 20, 2020

Immigration Corner | Can a US citizenship denial be appealed?

Published:Tuesday | February 12, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mrs Huntington,

I have a friend who went to do his US citizenship interview in January 2019. He went through a lawyer. However, the lawyer did not present himself with my friend at the interview. This is his third time applying for citizenship.

The interviewing officer told him that based on outstanding information/documents such as child support in Jamaica, as well as DNA report, she will send the file to her superior/co-worker to look at. In a previous interview he was asked if there were any children in Jamaica. His answer was that his name was called, but it's not a possibility the child belongs to him. The officer said they will inform him via mail of the decision. If he is not successful can this be appealed?

Thank you.


Dear N:

To qualify for US citizenship, a person must be a green card holder for five years (three years if they obtained their residency through marriage to a US citizen and they are currently married and living with their US citizen spouse); be a person of good moral character; have not been absent from the US for six months or more; and must be physically present in the United States more than they have been absent during the relevant period.

Good moral character encompasses several components, and one of them is the issue of child support. If a person has a child who is not in their custody, the US Department of Homeland Security expects proof that the citizenship applicant is financially supporting his/her child. In the case of your friend, the US government would expect him to know definitively if he is or is not the father of a child.

You did not indicate whether your friend told his attorney of his previous denials and about the issue of the alleged child. This is clearly a case where an attorney was needed in the preparation for the interview and to accompany your friend.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would have issued two previous denial notices indicating the reasons for not granting your friend his US citizenship. Your friend should explain what if any relationship he has with this child and work with his attorney to discover whether he is in fact the father of the child. It appears from your email that at some point DHS must have asked your friend and the child to submit to a DNA test. Clearly, that is necessary to determine the paternity of the child and your friend’s responsibility.

A denial of his citizenship application can only be appealed if DHS made a mistake in the application of the law to the facts presented. A legal decision cannot be denied because you disagree. In this case, if your friend is again denied, he needs to straighten out the paternity and child support issue before reapplying.


Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, esq is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and international law in Florida. She is a mediator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida.