What Happens If You Fail the Citizenship Test?

When you take the US citizenship test, if you fail either the English or the civics portion of this test, you will be permitted to attempt to retake the tests once before US Citizenship & Immigration Services denies your application.

You will be rescheduled to retake the failed portions of the test within 90 days of the initial exam and interview date.  If you fail again, USCIS will deny your application.  You will be required to refile the Naturalization application again, including all forms and fees.

What's in This Guide

What Happens in the US Citizenship Test?

Naturalization interviews involve an assigned officer from USCIS who will ask you questions about your application and your background.

Additionally, you must take and pass a two-part naturalization test with these core components:

  • English Test
  • Civics Test

English Test

The first component of the naturalization test involves a test gauged to determine the extent of your knowledge of the English language.

This three-part English test includes a reading, writing, and speaking test:

  1. Reading: You will need to read out one of three sentences correctly to the USCIS officer to demonstrate your ability to confidently read English.
  2. Writing: You must write three sentences in English. At least one of these sentences must be correct.
  3. Speaking: You will be tested on your ability to speak and to understand English.

Civics Test

The Civics Test is designed to establish whether you have a reasonable understanding of the history and government of the United States.

There are two principal versions of this test:

  • 2008 test: The 2008 version of the Civics Test is an oral test. The USCIS officer will ask you up to 10 questions from an official list of 100 questions related to civics. To pass this test, you must answer at least six questions correctly. If you filed Form N-400 before December 1, 2020, you must take this version of the test. The same applies if you filed Form N-400 after March 1, 2021.
  • 2020 test: Also an oral test, the 2020 version of the Civics Test involves an USCIS officer asking you 20 civics questions from a possible 128 questions on the official list. You must answer at least 12 questions correctly to pass this test. If you filed Form N-400 after December 1 or before March 1, 2021, you can choose whether to take the 2008 or 2020 test.

What Happens if You Fail the US Citizenship Test?

Failure of the citizenship test can occur during either portion of the test.

If you fail either the English Test or the Civics Test, you will be rescheduled to retake the failed component within 60 to 90 days of the initial exam and interview date.

Anyone who fails this test a second time will be ineligible to retake the test. Citizenship will be denied by the USCIS.

What Are the Other Reasons for Failing the US Citizenship Test?

If you fail either part of the US citizenship more than once, you will be denied citizenship. There are other reasons why the USCIS officer might decide to deny citizenship after administering the test.

During the initial application, you may have been asked to provide key documents relevant to your application. If so and if any documents are missing, you will receive Form N-14, a written request to provide the information. This form also outlines how you should correctly respond to that request. You have two options:

  1. Respond in person at your follow-up interview.
  2. Reply via mail within one month of receiving the request.

You should ask your assigned officer for clarification if you are not sure what information the request is demanding. You could also consult an experienced Chicago immigration lawyer.

Can Citizenship Be Permanently Denied for Other Reasons?

There are some other scenarios in which USCIS may have cause to permanently deny an application for US citizenship. If this happens, the person will be ineligible to reapply, and they will be unable to retake the citizenship test.

These are the primary reasons for an officer permanently denying an application:

  • Criminal history: If you have a criminal history involving murder or an aggravated felony, this is liable to cause USCIS to permanently deny your application. Officers will conduct a comprehensive background check for all applicants, meaning there is a strong chance that any prior convictions will be discovered, whether in the United States or abroad. If you have a history of arrests, you should seek guidance from an experienced immigration attorney to check whether you meet the requirements related to criminal background.
  • Failing to satisfy requirements for continuous residence or physical presence: Another common reason for applications for US citizenship being permanently denied is failing to meet requirements for either continuous residence or physical presence in the United States. Before applying for US citizenship, you must first prove you have lived in the US for five consecutive years, assuming you are not the qualified spouse of a US citizen. If you are the qualified spouse of a US citizen, you must reside in the US for three years. You cannot be absent from the US for more than 1 year if you are not married to a US citizen, and if you are, your total absence cannot be more than 18 months.  Either of these situations can result in the application being denied.
  • Lying or making false statements: If you lie at any stage during your application or interview, the USCIS is likely to deny your application permanently. The same applies if you make any false statements.
  • Not paying taxes: If you are applying for US citizenship and you have failed to pay any necessary taxes, you are likely to have your application permanently denied. You may avoid this if you are able to prove that you are actively working to correct the problem and to pay any back taxes due.

Why You Need to Study for the US Citizenship Test

While the US citizenship is not especially demanding, it is nevertheless essential to properly prepare.

You can visit the USCIS website for resources related to the test. Materials provided include:

  • Pocket study guides
  • Flashcards
  • Videos
  • Interactive practice tests

By studying and practicing, you can familiarize yourself with the questions you might be asked and try to fully understand all relevant topics. The more you practice the test, the more confident you will be on the day. If you arrive on the day of the test without any preparation at all, you are likely to find the process intimidating and overwhelming. The more you study, the more relaxed you will feel when test day arrives.

If you fail the test, you should spend more time studying. The most important thing to remember is that failing the test for a second time means that your application for US citizenship will be denied. If this occurs, you will be issued with a denial of citizenship from the USCIS. You should engage the services of a specialist immigration lawyer if you want to appeal this decision.

Reach out to the friendly team today at Chicago Immigration Lawyers by calling (312) 704-8000. We will help you prepare the initial application, ensuring you have all the required documentation, we will prepare you for your interview by providing you resources to study for the civic portion of the test, and we will prepare you for the interview itself.  We can also assist if your application was improperly denied by filing an appeal.