Triumph Over USCIS: A Naturalization Case Study

This month, we had great success on a naturalization case. Many people file for naturalization on their own because it’s a relatively straightforward process; but, when things go bad, they can go really bad. In Ken’s* case, we learned about how unpredictable and difficult it can be to work with USCIS when things don’t go as planned.

The Immigration Journey Begins

Ken and I first talked about his immigration options in 2022. He explained that he obtained his conditional residency around 2018 when he and his wife filed an I-751. However, since that process was taking so long, he opted to also apply for Naturalization when the time came. In 2019, Ken went to an interview at USCIS that focused on his Naturalization case and was told to expect a request for evidence (RFE). So, he waited and waited, until finally, in late 2019, he received the promised RFE. He submitted a response in January 2020 and hoped for a decision soon thereafter. 

Arising Challenges & Roadblocks

It didn’t. He waited and waited, but nothing came. He didn’t hear from USCIS until the summer of 2021 when he received another RFE asking for items that didn’t even pertain to his case. Still, he complied and responded as best he could. In the fall of 2021, he received a second letter saying that USCIS never received the response to his January 2020 RFE, and his case was denied. Thankfully, Ken’s case was reopened a few months later after he had asked for Congressional assistance. 

Ken then received a notice for a new Naturalization interview in July 2022. This is when he hired me to go with him and his wife. Although spouses aren’t normally required for these types of interviews, we wanted to be prepared since it seemed that USCIS wasn’t convinced of their bona fide relationship. 

Interview Ordeals

The interview was odd. The officer focused on nicknames his family used with one another and who was present at parties, and stated that it was strange Ken didn’t know everyone present. Throughout the whole interview, the officer seemed determined to undermine and question every statement that Ken made. The officer refused to accept reasonable explanations for how the couple paid their bills, how they met, or anything at all. At the end of the interview, the officer threatened to revoke Ken’s green card, saying that she had no faith in the relationship between him and his wife.

It was no shock when the N-400 was denied just a few days later. The denial was brutal, picking apart the couple’s life together and their past relationships. It felt personal—like the officer simply didn’t like the couple and that the law and facts didn’t matter. My favorite line was that the officer said “the boarding passes showing the couple traveled together weren’t worth anything because there’s no proof the couple was actually on that flight.” But who buys plane tickets, gets boarding passes, and then abandons their travel plans? 

Crafting a Legal Strategy

Thankfully, Ken was ready to file an appeal, so we submitted a N-336— a nearly 600-page request for a new interview. We took apart each line of the denial and explained why the officer was wrong in her analysis. 

About a year later, in the summer of 2023, I accompanied Ken to his N-336 interview. This interview was much better and the new officer, a supervisor, was willing to listen to Ken talk about his life with his wife. The supervisor said she first needed to review the entire file and would be in touch. We were disappointed to walk out without a decision, but knew there was a lot of documentation in the file and understood.

Celebrating Successes & Lessons Learned

Earlier this month, we received the amazing news that Ken was approved for Naturalization. I think I let out a shout of happiness when I saw the email come through! 

This case is a prime example of how USCIS doesn’t always get it right. Officers can be biased and officers can be wrong. The officer Ken and his wife met with in July 2022 was extremely difficult and I can only imagine how an unrepresented and unsophisticated applicant might wilt and give up under her intense scrutiny; she basically called them liars to their faces. I am grateful that Ken trusted me, that he wasn’t afraid to fight back, and that he knew he had nothing to hide. 

Don’t let USCIS intimidate you. Don’t let them put words in your mouth. Don’t let them interpret facts in the most negative way. Do stand up to them and hire an attorney who will help you in your fight.

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