Why Might a Green Card Be Denied?

Becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States presents immigrants with opportunities for a better life, freedom, and education or career advancement that may not be available in their countries of origin. Applying for a lawful permanent resident card, commonly known as a green card, can be a long and challenging process, and often results in application denial for many applicants.

Common reasons your green card application may be denied include:

  • Marriage validity: Proving you and your spouse have a legally recognized marriage is the most essential part of the green card application and the basis of your eligibility. You must prove that you have a valid marriage by providing a certified copy of your marriage certificate, evidence your marriage is recognized in the location you were married, and proof of previous marriages and divorces, such as marriage certificates, divorce decrees, or death certificates. Instances that may cause problems proving your marriage is valid include:
    • The divorce of one spouse was not finalized prior to your current marriage.
    • A same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in the country the marriage was held.
    • The marriage isn’t legally recognized in the country it was held for other reasons, such as an interfaith marital union.
  • Marriage authenticity: In addition to proving your marriage is legally valid, you must also provide evidence the marriage is authentic and not for the sole purpose of obtaining a green card. You must be able to present evidence of your relationship and life together through photos documenting events, trips, and your life together, financial documents, birth certificates for children born of the union.
  • Missing information: Failure to provide all information requested on all green card application forms is one of the quickest ways to be denied. You must answer every question or stating, “not applicable” (written as N/A) for questions that do not apply to either or both spouses.
  • No translations: All documents submitted with your application that are written in another language must also include a copy of the same document translated into English. All documents must be translated word-for-word and must be certified in writing by the translator that the document is translated accurately, along with the translator’s name, address, signature, and the date of translation.
  • Residing in the United States: If you are currently residing in the United States, you may not be eligible to apply depending upon the circumstances of how you entered the country, such as:
    • Tourist: If you entered the United States on a tourist visa or under the Visa Waiver Program and applied for a green card less than 60 days following arrival, you may be denied unless you can show valid evidence that you did not enter the United States strictly for the purpose of obtaining permanent residency.
    • Marriage: Being married to a United States citizen does not automatically allow you to apply for and obtain a green card while in the United States.
    • Illegal immigrant: Immigrants entering and residing in the United States illegally may not apply for green cards. In order to apply, you must first apply for a “provisional unlawful presence waiver,” followed by submitting a green card application to the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country.
    • Exchange visa: If you entered the United States on a J-1 educational or cultural exchange student visa, you may be required to return to your home country for at least two years following the expiration of your J-1 visa, unless you are able to obtain a residency requirement waiver.
    • Fiancé visa: If you entered the United States on a fiancé visa sponsored by a partner you are no longer in a relationship with, you are not eligible to apply for a green card from within the country.
  • Insufficient finances: Significant consideration is given to the sponsor or applicant’s ability to support themselves financially while living in the United States, without government assistance. Consideration will be given to your current financial status, health, lack of health insurance, family status, resources, education, skills, and assets at the time of filing. If this information shows you are likely to need government assistance or long-term support, you will not be eligible.
  • Security concerns: Part of the application process includes an in-depth criminal background check. Your application will automatically be denied if you are found to be a threat to public safety, currently on a watch list, or engage in sabotage or espionage activities, violations of export laws, participate in activities to overthrow the government of the United States, engage in terrorist activity, engage in acts of genocide, or have former involvement or membership in the Nazi or totalitarian parties.
  • Photo problems: Per government regulations, green card applications must include a passport style photo of the applicant, which can be taken at post offices and drug stores.
  • Missing signatures: Review your application carefully and make sure all required signatures are included. Signatures must be original and written with an ink pen. Online copies of your signature printed on the application are not allowed.
  • Insufficient fees: Failure to provide the required green card application fees can result in denial. Inquire the USCIS website, an American embassy, or consulate regarding the current cost of fees at the time you file your application.

There are certain situations that may make you completely ineligible to apply for a green card, such as having a criminal record, lying or misrepresenting yourself on the application, and certain medical conditions, such as communicable diseases, mental illnesses, or a history of drug abuse and addiction.

Additionally, actions such as failing to attend required immigration appointments, such as the in-person interview can also result in your application being denied.


Can I Appeal the Denial of My Application?

Depending on how you filed your application, you may be eligible to appeal a denial. If you filed a change of status from your current immigration visa while in the United States, you can submit an appeal, which must be filed within 30 -33 days of receiving your denial letter.

If you filed a green card application through a consulate in your home country, you may be eligible to refile your application a second time with the principal consular officer. Depending on the information you are appealing, the consular may choose to have the U.S. State Department review your application for a potential reversal. However, if your application is denied a second time you will not be permitted to file a second appeal, but you are entitled to reapply for a green card again if you choose.

The appeal process can be complex, and it is highly recommended that you hire legal representation before doing so.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin P.C. Assist Immigrants Applying to be a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States

If you or a family member is seeking a green card to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States, working with an experienced immigration legal team, such as the Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin P.C. We will ensure that your application packet will be correct, complete, and properly completed and submitted. Call us at 215-925-4435 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation today. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.