Will An Arrest Affect My Path To U.S. Citizenship?

The path to U.S. citizenship can be complicated but adding any roadblocks along the way can make it even more so.

One of these roadblocks that can make it difficult for someone to obtain U.S. citizenship is a criminal record. However, how much does this affect one’s success in obtaining citizenship?

Proof Of Good Moral Character

One of the requirements of citizenship is demonstration of “good moral character.” Officials from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will examine the individual’s criminal history to determine if they have any incidents in the past five years that would show that they do not have good, moral character.

If there is an incident on an individual’s record within the past five years, consider waiting longer so that the time period has passed.

Crimes That Raise Red Flags

Any crime is concerning when it comes to an application for citizenship, but certain crimes raise red flags that make it nearly impossible to be successful. What crimes are these?

Crimes that involve drug trafficking or prostitution are almost always included in the list, as well as other violent crimes, such as murder, manslaughter, or kidnapping. Any crime that implies poor moral character also raises red flags.

The silver lining is that for many of these crimes, in order to make the immigrant deportable or not eligible for citizenship, a conviction needs to have been made and not just an arrest.

Arrest Or Conviction?

In the U.S., defendants are deemed innocent until proven guilty, but an arrest can create a blemish on someone’s record while they are trying to obtain full citizenship.

However, an arrest is not as serious as a conviction. If an individual is arrested for a minor offense and the charges are never pursued or if they are never convicted, they may have an easier time explaining the offense to immigration and having this overlooked in the process.

Being convicted of the crime after pleading guilty or receiving a judgment from a jury or judge can be much harder.

Full Disclosure Is Best

If there is an arrest in an individual’s history, the worst thing they can do is to not disclose this matter. To apply for citizenship, an Application for Naturalization or Form N-400 must be filled out, and one of the main questions on this form is “have you 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?”

They will also be asked if they have ever committed a crime for which they were never arrested. Note that this question does not state that if the charges were dismissed one does not need to provide the information. Even dismissed crimes need to be disclosed.

Do not assume that by saying “no,” immigration will take the answer at face value and not investigate further. Criminal records are easy to produce. Applicants are required to undergo a fingerprint check which will pull up their records, and if it is found that there is something on their record and they lied to officials about this matter, their application will be denied.

Even if they are granted citizenship and this lie is discovered later, their citizenship can then be taken away. This question is serious so it is important to consult with an immigration attorney first to avoid penalties.

Risk Of Deportation

Depending on where the applicant is in the citizenship process and the type of crime, they may put themselves at risk of deportation by disclosing their arrest record. It is for this reason that many applicants will not fully disclose everything, hoping that perhaps it just will not be discovered.

No matter how tempting that may be, it is never advisable to purposefully hide something this important on an application. If there are any concerns about what the consequences could be for giving your entire arrest record to immigration, contact an attorney first who can advise on the best course of acton.

Call Gill & Kadochnikov Today

The immigration process can be complicated as well as intimidating. We want to help make it as smooth a process as possible. Please contact us today for a free consultation by calling 718-577-3261.

Gill & Kadochnikov, P.C. is a small New York City law firm located in Kew Gardens, Queens. We serve clients in the greater New York and New Jersey areas. We focus our practice in the areas of commercial litigation, immigration, trusts & estates, and business-related transactional matters.

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