If you and your family are looking to immigrate to the United States in pursuit of the “American Dream,” you need a few things to roll your way in order to be approved for a permanent resident card (green card).
To no surprise, the U.S. immigration process is extremely nuanced, and even a seemingly small error or issue can thwart your best efforts to make America your new home. Here are 11 of the most common reasons why a green card application might be denied.
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1. Aging Out During the Application Process
Under prior U.S. immigration laws, you were considered a child until your 21st birthday. Once you turned 21, however, you were required to meet the normal adult eligibility requirements. The process of “aging out” would cause your application to be denied.
Understandably, this result was devastating for immigrant families. As of February 2023, however, there are now protections for children who would age out under the old immigration laws.
Now, an individual who turns 21 may be eligible for a change of status under three conditions: if their parent is a citizen or permanent resident, if they also apply for adjustment of status, and if they were still under the age of 21 when the application was first submitted.
2. Dealing with Specific Health Issues
When applying for your green card, you are required to be examined by a government-designated doctor. During this process, there are a handful of medical issues that could affect your permanent resident eligibility.
These include abusing drugs or other substances, refusing mandatory vaccinations, carrying an infectious disease in your system, or a having mental condition that makes you a threat to others.
3. Being Considered a Public Charge
To be welcomed into the United States, you must meet certain income thresholds. With low income, you could be considered a “public charge,” someone who is at greater risk of being dependent on government benefits.
Of course, income isn’t the only factor that is assessed before an applicant is deemed a public charge. Your age, status, health, assets, education, and skills all play an important role during the evaluation.
4. Missing In-Person Appointments
In addition to submitting an initial application, the immigration process often requires that you attend multiple in-person appointments. All applicants must attend fingerprinting appointments, while some applicants—particularly those who are filing overseas—may also need to attend an interview.
Once these appointments have been scheduled, you must make every effort to attend them. Missing an appointment can easily result in your immigration petition being denied.
5. Having a Significant Criminal Record
It’s worth noting that not all crimes will make you ineligible for a green card. If you have a single charge on your record but a largely clean record otherwise, or if a crime was committed many years ago and you have shown patterns of good behavior since that time, you may still be admitted.
Crimes involving moral turpitude (CMIT), however, are much more likely to affect your eligibility. These include child abuse, domestic abuse, fraud, incest, kidnapping, manslaughter, mayhem, murder, rape, robbery, and others.
6. Posing a National Threat to the United States
Similarly, you could be deemed ineligible for permanent residence if you pose a threat to the United States and its citizens. If you have been involved with the Nazi party, terrorist organizations, or groups of genocide—whether currently or in the past—you are unlikely to be granted residence.
What’s more, partaking in any of these activities while holding a green card could cause you to be imprisoned or to have your permanent residence status revoked.
7. Having Past Immigration Violations
Your immigration history can also play a role in your eligibility for permanent residence. If you have violated an immigration law in the past, for example, chances are that you might be denied in the future.
A violation might be as simple as providing wrong information on a past application or as serious as having been removed from the country.
8. Making a Mistake on Your Application
Perhaps the most common reason why someone is denied permanent residence is because they have made a mistake along the way. Given the sheer amount of paperwork required to grant permanent residence, these mistakes can occur at various times during the immigration petition.
Leaving fields or sections empty, not meeting photograph requirements, or writing in a language other than English—while they may seem like relatively minor mistakes—can lead to your ineligibility.
9. Not Meeting an Eligibility Category
Simply put, your application may be denied if you don’t qualify for permanent residence at the beginning of the process. In most cases, you must fall into one of multiple eligibility categories.
These include being sponsored by an employer, having a close relative who is a citizen or permanent resident, being the victim of abuse or human trafficking, having refugee status, or being considered a special immigrant. There is also a category that makes other exceptions for eligibility.
10. Missing a Request for Evidence Deadline
If the USCIS determines that more evidence is required to approve your application, they may send you a Request for Evidence (RFE) form. This form will include a deadline by which you must meet the USCIS’s request.
Needless to say, missing this deadline could cause your application to be denied. Even if you gather all evidence and postmark it after the RFE deadline, your application may still be denied.
11. Errors Made by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
As you can imagine, your immigration petition must pass through many hands before it is ultimately approved. For this reason, all types of processing errors may occur. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) may lose track of an application or important document, or they may even misspell some of your personal information when entering it into their system.
After receiving a denial notice or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), it’s important to comb through the letter and determine the reason for rejection. If you suspect that the reason given is in error, you may file an appeal with the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO).