USA and the UK
Applying for US Citizenship with a Criminal Record
It is important to be upfront when applying for U.S citizenship and wanting to become a permanent resident in the United States. If you fail to declare to the citizenship and immigration services that you have a criminal record then you will automatically be refused a Green Card – even if you what you failed to declare would not have been a reason for a refusal.
Immigration services not only look at crimes committed in the US but any criminal history in other countries. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure you fill out all immigration law forms honestly and seek advice from an experienced immigration attorney if you are unsure as it could impact on the success of your Green Card application.
Declaring Criminal Convictions
If you are living in the United States then you will need to complete a section about your criminal convictions on form I-485. If you are applying for a green card from overseas then you will need to complete a DS-260 form that will again ask details about previous convictions.
Overall, there are around 20 questions related to criminal records and convictions covering a whole host of areas including resisting arrest, illegal gambling, drug crime or drug trafficking and crimes involving moral turpitude.
While these questions may be straightforward for those who have no criminal history, if you do have a more complicated past then you must provide as more information as possible. Remember, you will need to declare any crime committed overseas even if they are not illegal under US criminal law.
If you answer any of the questions with a yes then you will need to provide further information to progress your U.S citizenship. Along with your application form, you will need to give details of the crime, such as where and when you were arrested, charged or/and the conviction date. You must also provide details of any outcome of the case such as total prison sentence served or conditions imposed on you.
Is US Citizenship with Criminal Conviction Still Possible?
Having a criminal conviction does not automatically led to a reject by the US immigration services as it depends whether you have been convicted of certain crimes. It is better to be upfront about an criminal past as you could have your application automatically refused if you failure to declare or lie about any convictions.
Immigration services may also request official documents to ensure the information you are providing is accurate.
The following three types of crimes are not looked on favourably by the US authorities and means they may be unlikely to allow someone to be a green card holder or make the US their home country.
- aggravated felonies
- crime involving moral turpitude
- crimes involving illegal drugs
Obtaining citizenship is not impossible with one of this crimes on record, as it is possible to apply for a waiver and become a green card holder. In this circumstances it is is advisable to get support from a law firm to see what your options are.
Types of Crimes that Must be Declared
The US provides detailed explanations of what crimes must be included on any application for US citizenship. It is important to make sure you are aware of what must be included on your application for permanent residence.
Firstly, US immigration law gives a different definition of aggravated felony then US criminal laws. USCIS details what crimes are classed as aggravated felonies. Examples of an aggravated felony include:
- Drug trafficking
- Filing a false tax return
- Sexual abuse of a minor
Another possible conviction that could make you ineligible for citizenship is having on your record a crime of moral turpitude. This generally speaking means a crime that has been committed with evil intent – whether that be a physical or monetary crime.
Examples of such crimes include murder, rape, child pornography and human trafficking but it can also include drug convictions of a controlled substance as well as aggravated assault. In the majority of cases gambling crimes or a DUI conviction would not be regarded as crimes of moral turpitude.
Can Crimes be Waived to Allow US Citizenship?
It is possible to apply for a wavier which means you can still be granted a green card even if you have a criminal record. To do so you need to meet various eligibility requirements and prove that your criminal history would not endanger any US citizens, you are now of good moral character and you would experience hardship if you were not allowed to become a green card holder.
The waiver is commonly referred to as a 212(h) waiver and decisions are assessed on a case by case basis. US immigration law does not allow some criminal history to be waived so if you have been convicted of a crime or involved in crime related activity then you should seek advice from an attorney.
It is possible to submit your request for a waiver with your green card holder application if the US is currently your home country. If you are making a citizenship application from a foreign country then you will need to apply for the wavier at your green card interview.
Last modified on April 28th, 2023 at 9:34 am
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