What Does the USCIS Case Status “Case Was Denied” Mean for My Citizenship Application?

In a Nutshell

If you see “Case Was Denied” as your USCIS case status online, it means that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has received and reviewed your Form N-400 citizenship case and decided not to grant you naturalization. If USCIS denies your citizenship case, it will send you a denial notice explaining why. It can be disheartening to go through months of waiting for USCIS to process your citizenship application only to have your case denied. If this happens, you may want to get legal advice about the next steps.

Written by Jonathan Petts
Written November 21, 2022

My USCIS Case Status Says “Case Denied.” What Does That Mean for My Citizenship Case?

When USCIS denies your case, it means an officer reviewed your application materials and determined that you are ineligible for U.S. citizenship. USCIS does not base its denials on incomplete application materials or filing mistakes. Instead, a denial means that USCIS has received everything it needed from you to make a decision and doesn’t believe you meet the criteria for naturalization based on your application.

If USCIS denies your case, it will send you a denial notice explaining why it denied your case. When you receive USCIS’s denial notice, be sure to review it carefully. If you feel that you are, in fact, eligible for citizenship, USCIS’s denial letter will help you understand what went wrong. If you case is denied, USCIS will not return any of your filing fees.

After waiting several months, it can be very upsetting to find out that USCIS has denied your case. If you feel strongly that you do qualify for citizenship, you can choose to work with an attorney and appeal USCIS’s decision. If you’re interested in appealing, be sure to take the time to understand USCIS’s reasoning. Carefully consider why USCIS chose to deny your case and think about whether it missed anything important. Appeals are based on case law, so if you’re interested in appealing, you’ll almost always need to contact a lawyer for help. 

Where in the Citizenship Application Process Might I See “Case Denied” as My Status?

You won’t see “Case Denied” as your status unless and until USCIS has received your Form N-400 and evaluated your application. You can keep yourself updated on your case’s progress with the USCIS Case Status Tracker. To check your status, you’ll need to enter your receipt number. Your receipt number is the 13-character code provided on your Form I-797C: Notice of Action that you receive from USCIS after submitting Form N-400. You may also hear this called a receipt notice.

You will likely see several statuses before getting a denial. Here are few you may see:

  • Case Was Received: After USICS receives your initial N-400 application, it should send you a receipt notice and update your case status to indicate this.

  • Case Was Rejected: USCIS can reject your citizenship case if you make an error or provide incomplete information. If your case is rejected, you’ll get th opportunity to correct the issue and resubmit your case.

  • Request for Additional Evidence Was Sent: USCIS needs more evidence or documentation to verify certain facts of your case. If this is the case, USCIS will send you a request for evidence (RFE).

  • Case Was Transferred: Occasionally, USCIS transfers cases between its service centers.

Unless you receive a notice that USCIS has issued a denial, you have not yet been denied. If you recently submitted your application or had an application rejected, take heart that you haven’t been denied and still have a ways to go in the application process.

Does the Case Status “Case Was Denied” Mean the Same Thing as “Case Was Rejected”?

When USCIS denies your case, it’s not the same as rejecting it. Confusing the two can lead to serious misunderstandings and missed opportunities. When USCIS denies a case, it has decided that you are ineligible for citizenship. When USCIS rejects a case, it has found an error in your Form N-400 application. This means USCIS has not yet reviewed your eligibility. 

Having your case rejected can feel disheartening and extend the length of your application’s processing time. However, you’ll have a chance to address your errors or missing application components. Once you do so, USCIS will review your application and make an actual decision when it has everything it needs from you.

What Should I Do if My USCIS Case Status Says “Case Denied” for My Citizenship Case?

If you see the “Case Denied” status, first review USCIS’s denial notice to understand why. Appeals are often uphill battles. But if you think that USCIS made a mistake or overlooked something important, you may want to appeal. You can also look into other immigration pathways that will allow you to remain in the United States.

You may be able to apply for citizenship again, depending on why you were denied. To be successful, something in your fact pattern or eligibility must have changed. For example, perhaps you originally failed the civics or English language exams. You may have improved your knowledge of English and U.S. history after some time. If you are able to reapply, you’ll need to submit a new application, along with a new filing fee. An immigration attorney can help when reapplying to ensure your new application accurately reflects any new information.

When Should I Contact an Immigration Attorney About My Citizenship Case?

Many people file citizenship applications successfully without an attorney, but if USCIS denies your case, you’ll probably need to connect with an attorney to figure out next steps. 

You may especially want to seek legal advice if you are part of a special immigration category. For example, those with asylum or VAWA status may face complicated circumstances overlooked by USCIS. Lawyers can also help defend you against claims of inadmissibility by clarifying why you are, in fact, eligible for citizenship.