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10 Reasons for your Green Card Application Denial

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November 15, 2021

Key Takeaways

There are a lot of moving parts to the green card application process, and it's important to pay careful attention when you’re putting your application together. Sometimes, making mistakes on your application can cause the U.S. government to deny it. Other times, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will deny your visa application because you are inadmissible for one reason or the other. In this article, we're highlighting ten of the most common reasons why the U.S. government would deny your green card application.

Table of Contents

1. You're not eligible for a green card

If you don’t qualify to apply for a green card in the first place, the U.S. government will deny your application. You are eligible to apply for a green card under the following categories:

  • You have close relatives who are U.S. permanent residents or citizens
  • You have a U.S. employer sponsoring you 
  • You are a special immigrant
  • You have refugee or asylee status
  • You are a victim of human trafficking or crime 
  • You are a victim of abuse
  • You have resided in the United States since before January 1, 1972 

Please see the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website for more information about the specific eligibility requirements for your green card type. If you’re not sure if you can apply for a green card, you may also use our free screener to check your green card eligibility.

2. USCIS denied your underlying petition

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may have denied your underlying petition as an employment-based or family-based green card applicant.

To apply for an employment-based green card, you must have first filed Form I-140 or the “Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker” form. If you change employers or your employer fails to establish their working relationship with you sufficiently, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will deny the underlying petition. You can’t progress with your green card application if USCIS denies your I-140 petition.

Similarly, your sponsor must have filed Form I-130 or the “Petition for Alien Relative” for you to apply for a family-based green card. If your sponsor fails to establish your genuine or bona fide relationship with one another, USCIS will deny the underlying petition and you can’t apply for the green card. To make sure your sponsor provides all of the necessary information for Form I-130, check out our complete guide to the family sponsorship form.

3. You didn't attend required application appointments

Perhaps you missed appointments needed for your green card application process. When you file for a green card from within the United States through the adjustment of status application process, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) schedules a biometrics appointment (or fingerprinting appointment) and green card interview for you. When you file to apply for a green card from outside of the United States, your local U.S. embassy or consulate will schedule a mandatory interview appointment for you. You must attend all of your scheduled appointments. If you are unable to make one or more of your appointments, be sure to reschedule. Failure to attend all required application appointments will result in USCIS denying your application.

4. You missed your RFE response deadline

In some cases, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will reach out to applicants to ask them for additional information. If USCIS thinks they need more information to decide on your green card application, they will send you Form I-797E, also known as a Request for Evidence (RFE). USCIS will send an RFE to the same mailing address that you listed on your green card application. 

If your mailing address has changed since you submitted your green card application, you might have missed USCIS’s RFE. You should always be sure to update USCIS whenever your mailing address changes so that you do not miss important messages or requests.

RFEs typically list out the evidence you submitted in your application and the missing evidence from your application. Your RFE will contain a response deadline to submit the missing evidence. If you miss your response deadline, USCIS will deny your green card application. Check out our guide to RFEs to learn how to avoid them.

5. You made mistakes on your application

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) might have denied your application if you made any errors or mistakes on your paperwork. Errors are some of the top reasons for green card application denial.

You have likely made a mistake on the green card application package if:

  1. You failed to provide translations for any documents you submitted. Any documents not originally in English, such as birth certificates or marriage certificates, must be translated into English when you submit your application. You must include both the translation and a copy of the original version of the document in your application. All provided translations must be certified. A “certified” translation means that the translator must provide a written certification stating that they have accurately translated the document’s contents. The translator’s certification should include their name, address, signature, and date they wrote the translation.
  2. You have missing information on any of your forms. You must fill out all green card application forms entirely. Even if a question does not apply to your specific circumstances, you should not leave it blank. Instead, you should write “N/A” to signify that a particular question does not apply to you or your sponsor.
  3. You have insufficient fees to cover the cost of filing for a green card. The cost to apply for a green card depends on your application category and whether you apply from within or outside of the United States. You can double-check USCIS’s current fees on their website. If you provide invalid payment information or fail to pay the appropriate fees, USCIS will not process your application.
  4. There is an issue with the signatures you or your sponsor provided on any relevant green card application forms. All signatures on application forms must be original “wet ink” signatures. This means you must sign with a pen. USCIS will not accept electronic signatures.
  5. You had an issue with your application package photos. USCIS requires that you submit passport-style photos with your application. Be sure that you have submitted these photos and that they satisfy all government requirements.

When you choose to use ImmigrationHelp’s free service, we will ensure that you complete your forms correctly so that USCIS does not deny your case.

6. USCIS or your consulate made processing errors

Sometimes, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or your local U.S. embassy or consulate will make an error while processing your application. USCIS or your consulate might have lost your filing fee payments or documents. Perhaps they misspelled your name, incorrectly listed your date of birth, or forgot to send you any notices.

Be sure to carefully review any Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) or final denial notices if you are confident that an immigration agency has made an internal mistake while processing your application. If an immigration agency has not processed your case fairly, you may be able to file an appeal with the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO).

Filing an appeal or motion to reopen your green card case after denial

If you would like to appeal a green card denial from USCIS, you must file Form I-290B or the “Notice of Appeal or Motion” form and pay a $675 filing fee by money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or a credit card payment.

You must file any appeals within 30 days after receiving your initial decision. If you received your initial decision by mail, you must file your appeal within 33 days. You should fill out the form and indicate that you are motioning to reopen your case and state the basis of your motion. You can also choose to refile your green card application case instead. In either case, you’ll need an immigration attorney to guide you through the process. If you are low-income, you can find an immigration lawyer at no or a low cost on the U.S. government’s Legal Aid resource directory.

Those denied a green card through consular processing can’t appeal the denial but can also choose to refile their green card application. Principal consular officers review applications and, if they choose, may seek a second opinion from the U.S. Department of State on applications. If the State Department affirms a denial, you do not have an option to appeal. Refiling is the best way forward.

7. You don't have access to enough financial resources

The U.S. government will deny your green card application if you have sufficient financial resources to live in the United States. In the marriage green card application process, U.S. citizen or green card holder spouses and other family members must meet specific income requirements to qualify as sponsors to the applicant. They’ll show that they meet the requirements by submitting an affidavit of support with your application package.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or your consular officer will want to make sure that, when you enter the United States as a permanent resident, you will not become a “public charge.” Not being a public charge means that you will not be likely to rely on U.S. government health and assistance benefits for financial support. If you are likely to become a drain on public resources, USCIS may deny your green card application.

8. You violated immigration laws or got deported from the United States

U.S. immigration officers will not grant you lawful permanent resident status if you have a history of immigration violations or deportation from the United States. Any time you knowingly provide the wrong information on immigration documents or status applications, you commit immigration fraud. Providing an incorrect employment or address history is fraud and can result in green card denial.

Additionally, the U.S. government can deny your green card request if you have any prior removals from the United States. They will deny applications from foreign nationals in the United States unlawfully or with a history of deportation. You have an unlawful presence in the United States if you snuck in as a stowaway, entered the country through misrepresenting yourself, did not attend required immigration removal proceedings, or abused or overstayed your visa.

Even if you are inadmissible for violating immigration laws, you can try to waive your inadmissibility. Immigrant visa, adjustment of status, certain nonimmigrant statuses, and certain other immigration benefits applicants who are inadmissible to the United States can file Form I-601 to attempt to gain a waiver of their inadmissibility.

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