3 reasons you might be refused citizenship

Picture this: you’ve been living in a different country long enough to become eligible for citizenship there. You take the time and effort to fill out the application, prepare for and take the required tests, and spend your hard earned money on the relevant fees. Yet, when you hear back from the immigration office a few months down the line — it’s not good news. Despite all of your efforts, your application has been rejected.

Unfortunately, this is the reality for more people than you might think. In the US, for example, around 2-3 percent of naturalization applications are rejected. Considering roughly 860,000 green card holders apply for US citizenship each year, this means tens of thousands of American residents endure this fate in any given calendar period.

But why might a resident be refused citizenship? Here, we break down three of the most common reasons citizenship applications are denied, from political grounds to not meeting residency requirements.

1. Political reasons

Quite simply, rejections can be politically motivated. The most obvious example involves nations in conflict — for instance, Azerbaijan has banned anybody from Armenia from entering the country altogether owing to ongoing conflict between them. Countries may also reject applications because they do not recognize an applicant’s particular nation or the applicant’s nation has strong links to terrorism.

That said, some nations show a level of leniency when it comes to applications from citizens of countries they have difficult relations with. For example, despite Dominica imposing restrictions on citizenship by investment applications of Iranian, North Korean and Sudanese citizens, they may still be accepted if the applicant:

  • Hasn’t lived in these countries for the last ten years
  • Has no substantial assets there
  • Hasn’t performed or isn’t performing any business or similar activity, in whole or in part, in or with these nations

2. Not being of good character

What “being of good character” actually means depends on the country in question. Generally speaking, nations are more likely to reject citizenship applications if individuals have engaged in the following activities:

  • Criminality
  • Bankruptcy and non-payment of public debts
  • Deception/dishonesty, like lying in your application or fraudulently claiming benefits
  • Notoriety, such as expressing unacceptable views on race, religion, or sexuality in public
  • Breaches of the immigration rules

However, even if one of the above applies to an applicant, it doesn’t necessarily mean their application will be rejected and it depends on the seriousness of the indiscretions.

3. Being absent from the country

Most countries have some form of residency requirement that prospective citizens must meet before they’re eligible for citizenship. This usually involves the applicant living in the country for a certain number of years — for instance, in the US, green card holders must have resided there for at least five years, while this is four years for residents in Australia.

However, one aspect of this that often catches people out is the physical presence requirement. This stipulates that individuals must not be absent from the country for longer than a certain amount of time during the overall residence period. In the case of the US, citizenship applicants can’t be outside of the country for more than 18 months in total during the five year mandatory residency period. In Australia, you can’t be absent from the country for longer than 12 months.

Written by Steven

Steven is a young student from San Francisco who is obsessed with computers.

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