Every year, hundreds of thousands of people apply for a Green Card to live and work in the US. And every year, thousands of those applications are turned down. Applicants are denied for all sorts of reasons, from a simple form-filling mistake to extremes such as the applicant has terrorist affiliation or is a major criminal.
Getting a Green Card has always been a relatively lengthy and involved process, but it just got a bit harder under the new regulations. That means that when you’re applying, it’s all the more vital that you complete the paperwork correctly and give yourself the best chance of being approved. If you’re aware of why your application might be denied, you may be able to take preventative action, present mitigating evidence, or secure a waiver, for example.
We’ve outlined the main reasons why Green Card applications are denied to help you through the process. The guide also considers the different forms of Green Cards - including family and employment-based applications - before concluding with guidance on what to do if you’re rejected. America’s a great place to live, and hopefully, our advice will help you secure your own Green Card, and ultimately, US citizenship!
Green Card applications are managed by the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services). Their latest statistics show that in 2019, 1,031,765 individuals were granted lawful permanent residence (LPR), and also that just under 288,000 applications were deemed to be inadmissible. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the highest percentage of approvals and rejections were from Mexico.
As ever, those statistics don’t tell the whole story. The latest data also reveals that the level of refusal is different for applications based on immediate family members, employment, refugee status, and more. That said, many of the main reasons for denial remain the same across all the different categories of application.
There are all sorts of reasons why your application might fail, ranging from trivial to severe. In some cases, you may be able to reapply: for example, if a yearly quota has been reached, you could come back again next year. In other cases, the decision is unlikely to change. So let’s look at some of the most common reasons why Green Card applications are denied.
The US expects new citizens to make a positive contribution to the country in all senses of the word. The flip side of that approach is that people who may make a negative contribution are less welcome. For that reason, your application may be denied if you pose a health risk to others, have a potentially serious (and expensive) health condition, are unvaccinated, or suffer from mental health issues.
You wouldn’t welcome a burglar into your home, and similarly, the US doesn’t want to invite criminals into the country. If you’ve committed a minor offense, you may be able to secure a waiver, but even then, your criminal record may still be held against you. People convicted of serious crimes like murder, rape, or drug smuggling - such grave offenses are termed moral turpitude - are unlikely to receive a positive response.
Individuals who pose a potential threat to national security are, unsurprisingly, not welcome in the US. Current and former spies, terrorists, and members of extreme political groups will all find it difficult - if not impossible - to have their application granted. That applies even if your activities happened sometime in the past, and you’re now a reformed character.
If you’ve been found guilty of immigration violations in the past, it’ll likely impact your case. If you stay longer than your visa permits or decide to enter the country illegally, it’ll have an impact on the final decision. All judicial system parts come down hard on repeat or serial offenders, and immigration law is no different.
In cases where you’re hoping to enter the US under a family-based application, it’s expected that either you or your sponsor have sufficient income and assets to support you. This helps to ensure that you won’t depend on government assistance to survive. Without adequate financial resources - and proof of the same - you may find your application for a Green Card fails.
Although the recently revamped Green Card application form (I-485) is now more user-friendly, it’s still easy to make a small administrative mistake that will invalidate your application. Something as simple as forgetting to sign the form, ticking the wrong box, or failing to complete a section will make your application null and void.
If fraudulent information is discovered, your application will be thrown out, and this will also have a knock-on effect in the future - so never be tempted to give false details.
If your application has been turned down, you may think that your chances of living in America are over. While there’s no doubt that some decisions will never be overturned, there may be a way to reverse the decision successfully in some cases. But for that to happen, you’ll likely need the services of an experienced immigration lawyer.
Some immigration law areas are relatively straightforward, but others are more complex, and that’s the case when you’re trying to overturn a refusal. With their sector-specific experience and knowledge of all the legal aspects around immigration, a dedicated attorney can guide you through the process, explain the rationale of the decision, and suggest possible remedies, such as securing a waiver.
You may only get one chance to apply for a Green Card, so to give it your best shot, it’s worth having your application checked out by a qualified lawyer. Iif your original application has been rejected, an experienced immigration attorney may be able to suggest solutions where you thought there were none.