Applying for U.S. Citizenship With a Criminal Record?
How Does Your Criminal History Affect Your U.S. Citizenship Application?
Having a criminal history can make becoming a U.S. citizen a little more difficult. However, the effect of your criminal history will depend on several factors including when the crime/offense occurred and what you were convicted of. Immigration law is fairly complex when it comes to crimes, so the first thing you should do is consult with an experienced immigration attorney to ensure you fully understand the effect of your arrest or conviction on your citizenship case.
If you simply try to hide your conviction from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) by not disclosing it, your case will likely be denied – even if what you failed to disclose would not have been a reason for denial. So, this is definitely not the way to go!
USCIS not only evaluates crimes committed in the U.S. but also any criminal history in any part of the world. Therefore, it is crucial that you fill out all immigration forms honestly and seek advice from an experienced immigration attorney if you are unsure how to respond, as it could impact the success of your naturalization application.
Disclosing Criminal Convictions
In preparing your naturalization application, you must complete a section that specifically asks about your criminal history. In this section, there are numerous questions related to criminal activities covering a whole host of areas including illegal gambling, drug crimes or drug trafficking, and crimes involving moral turpitude.
While these questions may be straightforward for those with no criminal history, if you have a more complicated past, you will have to review these questions carefully to ensure you are answering them truthfully. Remember, you will need to disclose any arrests and/or crimes in your past, even if they occurred overseas, and even if the actions are not illegal under U.S. criminal law.
If you answer any of the questions with a “yes” then you will need to provide additional details regarding the arrest, such as dates, location, and whether you were charged and convicted. You will also need to include a certified disposition (document issued by the court) for each and every arrest and conviction.
Is U.S. Citizenship with a Criminal Conviction Still Possible?
Having a criminal conviction does not automatically mean that your naturalization application will be denied. If it has been more than 5 years since you were convicted, and if the crime is not one that would make you deportable, then you may still be able to become a U.S. citizen.
However, there are certain crimes that will almost always prevent you from being able to naturalize and could even land you in deportation proceedings. These include, but are not limited to:
- Crimes involving moral turpitude (i.e. theft, fraud)
- Crimes involving illegal drugs;
- Crimes involving firearms;
- Crimes involving domestic violence or child abuse;
- Crimes involving violence.
Again, these are not the only crimes that could make you ineligible for naturalization and also deportable, but they are some of the most common ones.
If you have a criminal history but would like to explore becoming a U.S. citizen, don’t hesitate to call us. Our office specializes in complicated naturalization cases and if there is a way, we will find it!