Applying for Citizenship with a Criminal Record

ShonEjai.    Pixabay

ShonEjai. Pixabay

I'm a Green Card holder applying for naturalization, do I need a lawyer?

Yes. If you have a criminal record or have had extended trips abroad, you may need a lawyer to help you with your citizenship application.

A common myth in immigration is that Green Card holders (permanent residents) do not need a lawyer when they apply for citizenship. Most think that the naturalization application is a mere formality. 

In reality, it's a lengthy process which includes submitting an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a background check, a test and an interview. Although some applicants have successfully filed by themselves, it could get complicated for others, especially for those who may have issues in meeting the legal requirements for naturalization.

Naturalization Requirements
Naturalization is the process wherein foreign nationals can obtain U.S. citizenship. Not every immigrant is eligible to become a U.S. Citizen. Generally, Green Card holders (Legal Permanent Residents) that have been legal permanent residents for at least five years may apply for citizenship if they meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old.

  • Show residency for at least 3 months in the state or district where you intend to apply.

  • Demonstrate continuous residence and physical presence in the U.S. for at least 5 years.

  • Can read, write, and speak basic English.

  • Have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).

  • Be a person of good moral character.

  • Demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution.

Good moral character requirement
In assessing an applicant's good moral character, immigration officers may look into the following factors to determine whether the applicant meets the requirement:

  • Family ties and background;

  • Absence or presence of other criminal history;

  • Education;

  • Employment history;

  • Other law-abiding behavior (for example meeting financial obligations, paying taxes);

  • Community involvement;

  • Credibility of the applicant;

  • Compliance with probation; and

  • Length of time in United States.

If you've had previous contact with law enforcement or immigration officials, and are applying for naturalization, you should seek the assistance of an immigration attorney who can advise you on how to best present your case in light of your prior history. Read the next part of our blog post regarding how extended trips abroad may impact your naturalization application.

Do you have questions about immigration, the green card process, and naturalization? If so, please contact us. We are here to help. Follow us on InstagramTwitterFacebook or LinkedIn for up-to-date immigration news.

Rasoulpour Torregoza is the law firm for immigrants, by immigrants. We are founded on the motto of LegalEase: we do away with the legal jargon and make law easy to understand, so you can focus on what’s important to you – going for your American Dream.
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