FAQ: “Can I still apply for Naturalization/US Citizenship if I was arrested?”
In order to apply for U.S. citizenship, you will need to fill out Form N-400, the Application for Naturalization. One of the questions on that form asks whether you have “ever been arrested, cited, or detained by any law enforcement officer (including any and all immigration officials or the U.S. Armed Forces) for any reason.” Another question asks whether you have ever committed a crime or offense for which you were not arrested. When applying for US Citizenship through Naturalization you must answer all questions accurately and honestly. All citizenship applicants must show good moral character. The reviewing officer has the discretion to decide whether the applicant displays good moral character. While an arrest, charge, or conviction certainly casts doubt on good moral character it does not automatedly disqualify an applicant, unless you were convicted of an aggravated felony. Note, pleading guilty is deemed a conviction. Determination of good moral character is a balance of multiple factors, criminal history being only one of the factors. Criminal history will be weighed against positive factors such as steady work record, filing and paying taxes, being a contributing member in the community, home life, etc. The severity of the crime certainly plays a role in that determination as well.
“How far back does U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services look in determining good moral character?”
USCIS will look five years before you submit your application for citizenship in determining good moral character. Therefore if you’re close to that point with your arrest, it might be safer to wait a little longer. However, USCIS can, in it’s discretion, look past the good moral character period if the arrests, charges, or convictions, are serious enough.
“How will USCIS know of my criminal history?”
Upon submitting your N-400 Application, the next step is to attend your biometrics appointment, whereby your fingerprints will be taken. Your fingerprints and identity will be run against all federal, state, and local databases. The interviewing officer will know most of the information, regardless of whether you disclosed it on your application or not. When vying to win the opinion and determination of the immigration officer, it is crucial to be honest, especially when the determination concerns your good moral character.
“The N-400 Application seems straightforward, should I apply on my own?”
While the N-400 application itself is straightforward and can be filled out with relatively no difficulty, it is prudent to seek the representation of a competent immigration attorney who can gauge and evaluate your specific circumstances. Anyone arrested or charged with a crime should have their record reviewed by an immigration law attorney before filing any immigration application. Consult an experienced immigration attorney, who will fully analyze the significance of your arrest for immigration purposes and help you with your citizenship application.
If you are in doubt about your eligibility, need help in properly preparing the application, and accompaniment to the interview, hire an experienced U.S. immigration attorney, Sergey Kalantarov, Esq. of Kalantarov Law, PLLC.
For more information on this topic or any related Immigration issues, call (718)425-4162 to schedule your FREE consultation.