FAQ: Can A Criminal Record Prevent Me From Becoming a Citizen?
The United States citizenship application USCIS Form N-400 evaluates if you have good moral character and are eligible for citizenship. A criminal record, fraudulent activity or drug conviction can prevent you from becoming a U.S. citizen – but not every arrest record will cause your citizenship application to be denied. Some crimes can temporarily ban you from becoming a citizen, while other crimes will permanently deny your citizenship application.
Crimes That Permanently Prevent Applicants From Becoming A Citizen
Anyone who has ever been convicted of one of the following crimes is permanently denied U.S. citizenship – and face removal:
• an aggravated felony where the conviction was after November 29, 1990
• serving on a jury
• voting in a presidential election
• conviction of illegal drug use – even a marijuana conviction despite the legalization of cannabis in Illinois
If the USCIS immigration officer reviewing your application realizes you have been convicted of one of these crimes, they can begin deportation proceedings against you. An immigration officer might look at a crime that was considered a misdemeanor in the state where you were arrested but consider it a violent crime according to USCIS federal standards.
An experienced immigration and criminal defense attorney who understand the immigration consequences of criminal convictions can protect your rights and advocate on your behalf.
Crimes That Temporarily Prevent Applicants From Becoming Citizens
Some crimes temporarily ban you from becoming a citizen, and answering Yes to some questions during your interview can temporarily deny citizenship:
• failure to pay taxes
• failure to pay child support
• multiple convictions for traffic violations
• conviction for alcohol-based Driving Under the Influence charges
There are other crimes and actions that can result in denial of your citizenship application by USCIS immigration officers.
What If My Arrest Record Was Expunged?
Immigration does not acknowledge expungements when you are not a U.S. citizen. The immigration office still looks at whether that offense counts as a conviction for immigration purposes. The immigration officer does not take into account how Illinois treats or labels that conviction.
There are many times that immigration officers have asked us to obtain arrest records for cases that have been expunged by a court.
If you have a criminal record, it is important to meet with an immigration and criminal defense attorney to determine the immigration consequences before you file an expungement petition with the immigration office.
DuPage County Citizenship Lawyer
In some cases, a criminal record can prevent you from becoming a citizen – but depending on the situation, you may be eligible to become a citizen with a criminal history. Before you apply for citizenship you should meet with an experienced immigration and criminal defense attorney to help and represent you in the naturalization application. We can help you if you’ve already filed and want an attorney to accompany you to your interview. Please contact the Chicago immigration attorneys at Godoy Law Office at 630-912-0322.
AREAS WE SERVE: Godoy Law Office serves the entire Chicago, Illinois area including DuPage, Cook, Kane, Will, and Lake Counties