Crimes That Can Prevent You From Getting US Citizenship

August 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

You have to meet many eligibility requirements to qualify for American citizenship. One important requirement is that you should be a person of good moral character. If you commit certain crimes during the five years prior to filing the citizenship form or even if you lie during their naturalization interview, you will not be considered to be of “good moral character” and your case will be denied.

A few of the behaviors that show lack of good moral character are drunk driving or being drunk most of the time, illegal gambling, prostitution, telling lies to gain immigration benefits, failing to pay court-ordered child support, committing terrorist acts, persecuting someone because of race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or social group.

Certain crimes will bar you from becoming an American citizen and if you commit those, you probably will be removed from the country. These crimes are generally known “bars” to naturalization. Crimes that come under “aggravated felonies” are murder, rape, sexual abuse of a child, violent assault, treason, and illegal trafficking in drugs, firearms, or people and will result in permanent bars to naturalization.

Persons exempted or discharged from serving in the US Armed Forces and those who deserted from the US Armed Forces are also permanently barred from American Citizenship. The chances of citizenship getting denied is more if you behave in other ways that show you do not have good moral character. There are other crimes that result in temporary bars. Temporary bars prevent you from becoming a US citizen for up to five years since you committed the crime.

While filing the citizenship form, it is very important that you are transparent in disclosing any crime that you committed. Even if the crime was removed from your record or you committed a crime before your 18th birthday, it is mandatory that you report it. If you try to hide such information, citizenship will denied and will also lead to your prosecution. So always be transparent and truthful with the information you provide in your application.

Immigration process, at times can be sophisticated. You can avail the services of a licensed immigration lawyer for any assistance. You can get in touch with your local bar association for assistance in finding a qualified lawyer. Some states certify specialists in US immigration law. However, it is up to decide whether to hire a particular attorney. If you do not have enough money to hire a lawyer, you have some low cost or free assistance options. You can get help from:

  • A Recognized Organization : To qualify, the organization should have adequate knowledge and experience to offer services to those seeking. Such organizations are recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). They charge or accept a very minimal fee for such assistance.
  • An Accredited Representative : Such persons,connected to BIA “recognized organizations” too offer services and charge a minimal fee for the services they render.
  • A Qualified Representative : These persons offer free services. They should have sufficient knowledge in US immigration laws and the rules of practice in court. Law school students and graduates and people with good moral character who have a personal or professional affiliation come under “qualified representatives”.
  • Free Legal Service Providers : There are many attorneys and organizations available to represent immigrants in proceedings before Immigration Courts. Attorneys and organizations help immigrants without accepting any fees only in immigration proceedings. Some may not be able to help you with non-court-related issues such as visa petitions, naturalization, etc.
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