10 Reasons for Your Green Card Application Denial

In a Nutshell

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 10 of the most common reasons why the U.S. government would deny your green card application.

Written by Jonathan Petts
Written May 25, 2022

Green cards confer many benefits on their holders. This is why the U.S. government has an involved application process to get legal permanent resident status. Here are the top 10 reasons green card applications are declined.

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. 

USCIS provides more information about the specific eligibility requirements for your green card type.

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: 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 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: 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

If you missed appointments needed for your green card application process, your application may be denied. When you file for a green card from within the United States through the adjustment of status application process, 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. Always update USCIS when 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.

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:

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.

You Have Missing Information on 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.

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. If you need help paying the fees, check out our article on tips to afford them.

There Is an Issue With Signatures

Your green card application requires several signatures. If the signatures you or your sponsor provided on any relevant green card application forms don't meet the requirements, your application may be denied. 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.

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.

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 a notice.

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: Notice of Appeal or Motion form and pay a $675 filing fee by money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or credit card.

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. Low-income individuals 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 don't 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.

USCIS or your consular officer will want to make sure that you will not become a public charge when you enter the United States as a permanent resident. 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 need 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.

9. You Have a Disqualifying Criminal Record

Certain crimes will jeopardize your green card application, such as crimes of “moral turpitude,” multiple offenses, or specific crimes such as drug trafficking, prostitution, commercialized vice, money laundering, religious freedoms violations as a foreign government official, or fraud.

You cannot hide your criminal history on your green card application. You must complete all forms truthfully. If you reveal a criminal record on any of your forms, you must write an explanation to prove that you are still admissible to the United States. Not writing an explanation will likely result in green card request denial.

U.S. immigration officials take security-related concerns very seriously. If you wish to enter the United States with the intent to violate U.S. security laws, the U.S. government will deny your green card application. Security violations or potential threats include any former or current terrorist involvement, Nazi or totalitarian party involvement, involvement in genocide, or association with any groups that pose a threat to the United States’ foreign policy. You cannot violate espionage, sabotage, or U.S. export laws and obtain or continue to hold a green card.

10. You Are Inadmissible for Health Reasons

To be admitted to the United States as a green card holder, you will have to undergo a medical exam by a government-approved doctor first. If you have a communicable disease, fail to prove that you have all the required vaccinations, are a drug abuser or addict, or have a physical or mental disorder that may threaten your own or others’ safety, you may be inadmissible for health reasons.