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Can I Apply for U.S. Citizenship with a Criminal Record?

November 15, 2017

Many U.S. immigrants work towards the goal of earning citizenship status to gain some of the many benefits that Americans enjoy. Unfortunately, applying for United States citizenship can be a very daunting process, especially with a criminal record. Yet, many individuals with criminal records are still able to attain citizenship. Although, it depends on the crime(s) they were convicted of or arrested for. Other factors will be taken into consideration during the application process. If you’re worried that a criminal record can be holding you back, be sure to look into your options.

The Application Process

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services requires applicants to disclose all criminal charges and convictions on their application form. This information is needed even if your case has been dismissed. Applicants are only required to include information on charges/convictions that occurred within a certain time-period. This is dependent on whether you are married to a United States citizen. It is essential for applicants to be aware of the impact their criminal background can have on their path to naturalization before beginning this process.

USCIS asks for a full criminal history to determine if you have good moral character. This is essential to having your application for citizenship approved. Furthermore, honesty on your forms is crucial. Your application could be dismissed because of dishonesty or failure to include pertinent information. It’s important to disclosure all criminal events, no matter where they occurred. If you’ve been granted an expungement or record seal, it may be best to consult an attorney.

There are certain crimes that will result in a permanent bar from American citizenship. This means that you will not be approved for citizenship even if you receive a USCIS interview because the crime you committed shows a lack of good moral character. You will be automatically barred from ever attaining United States Citizenship if you have been convicted of Murder or an aggravated felony on or after November 29, 1990. The list of what constitutes an aggravated felony is extensive and can be found here. Some serious felonies can result in USCIS having you deported as well. All crimes not considered aggravated felonies are called Condition Bars, and you may still be approved even if you qualify for a Conditional Bar depending on the rest of your application.

Consider your Options

There are a few things to consider if you’re concerned about obtaining citizenship with a criminal record. You may want to wait longer than the minimum period of naturalization before applying. Or, you can seek an expungement, record seal, or some other rehabilitative document. Although this may not excuse your crimes, these legal services can be very beneficial. It’s always best to consult an attorney when dealing with citizenship matters. The more you know about your criminal record, and how it will affect you, the better.

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