We’ve received a couple of questions in the last few days about what happens to documents that get sent to USCIS and what to do if your client doesn’t have access to the original.
Once USCIS accepts an N400 for review, they will keep the documents even if they ultimately deny the application. If USCIS denies naturalization, they will send a written notice to the applicant but will not return the application. The only exception is if USCIS denies the applicant’s fee waiver; at that point, the application is not accepted for processing because the applicant has not paid the necessary fee, so USCIS sends back the whole application, including supporting documents.
With that in mind, please note that you should almost never send original documents to USCIS. A list of supporting documents that must be presented in the original is here. Apart from affidavits, most of these things have nothing to do with naturalization applications. In all other cases, copies are completely acceptable and probably preferred.