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With more than 25 years of experience practicing law, our Illinois immigration and nationality law attorney and law firm founder, Shobhana Kasturi, knows that criminal convictions can place certain obstacles in the way of those seeking to become naturalized citizens in the U.S.

Here, we review some critical factors associated with criminal records and naturalization.

critical factors associated with criminal records and naturalization

What Does a Criminal Record Mean to My U.S. Naturalization Application?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) assesses applicants’ eligibility for naturalization, and certain criminal convictions may impact the naturalization process.

When filing a naturalization application, being transparent and truthful about any criminal history is crucial. USCIS thoroughly reviews an applicant’s background during the naturalization process, and failure to disclose relevant information may lead to severe consequences.

Here are key points to consider:

General Eligibility Requirements

  • Good Moral Character

One of the general eligibility requirements for naturalization is establishing good moral character (GMC). GMC is evaluated during the statutory period, typically the five years preceding the naturalization application or three years if married to a U.S. citizen.

  • Continuous Residence

Applicants must demonstrate continuous residence in the United States during the statutory period and must also show physical presence here for a required number of days during the statutory period.

Impact of Criminal Convictions

  • Certain Offenses May Result in Ineligibility

Some criminal convictions may make an individual ineligible for naturalization. Offenses related to moral turpitude, aggravated felonies, and certain other crimes may have consequences.

  • Offenses Involving Crimes of Moral Turpitude

Crimes of moral turpitude (CIMTs) can affect an applicant’s good moral character. Examples of CIMTs include fraud, theft, and crimes involving dishonesty.

  • Aggravated Felonies

Convictions for aggravated felonies can have severe consequences, including deportation. It is important to note that the definition of aggravated felonies for immigration purposes may differ from criminal law definitions.

  • Drug Offenses

Convictions for drug offenses can impact naturalization eligibility. Even a single drug-related conviction can have consequences.

Rehabilitation and Waivers

USCIS considers whether an applicant has been rehabilitated and reformed since the criminal conviction. Certain convictions may require a waiting period before an individual becomes eligible for naturalization, which may vary depending on the offense.

In some cases, but not all, applicants may be eligible for waivers to overcome the immigration consequences of certain convictions.

Individuals with criminal convictions considering naturalization should seek advice from our skilled immigration attorney to assess the specific circumstances, guide eligibility, and advise on potential strategies, including waivers.

We can provide trusted legal representation for applicants with criminal histories who must overcome challenges, as the consequences of missteps in the naturalization process can be significant. Each case is unique, and our immigration attorney can provide tailored guidance based on your circumstances.

We will be in your corner from start to finish, providing end-to-end legal solutions that allow you to build your life in the U.S. with the dignity, respect, and integrity you deserve.

Contact us today to learn how our Naperville immigration attorney can help you. We provide in-office, phone, and Zoom consultations to help you understand your legal rights and options so you can make informed decisions about your immigration journey.