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Tips on Naturalization: Criminal Records

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If you or a friend are considering applying for naturalization, disclosure of any and all criminal history is always the best policy.  I recently came across a case where a client failed to disclose a DUI conviction on their N-400 application.  At the naturalization interview, the client informed an immigration officer that he/she had been previously charged with a DUI, but failed to specifically state that he/she had been convicted.  After the interview, USCIS requested that a certified copy of the court disposition be submitted, and when it was discovered that the client had been convicted of DUI, the naturalization application was rejected and the client was barred from re-applying for citizenship for 5 years. 

Situations like the one described above are common in the naturalization process, and can be avoided in many instances.  The key for green card holders who one day plan on applying for citizenship is to be sure to keep a copy of your court dispositions and to disclose your criminal record on your N-400 application.  While not impossible, recovering prior court dispositions can be difficult, especially if the cases occurred several years earlier.  If you were placed on probation as part of your sentence, be sure to obtain and keep a document that proves that you have completed probation.  An applicant for naturalization can overcome a prior criminal conviction that is not serious in nature, provided that they disclose the conviction, document the outcome of the case, and prove that they have complied with the terms of probation.  Applicants who have been convicted of serious criminal offenses or who have served time in prison may be barred from naturalizing, and should consult an attorney before deciding to apply.

For more information on the naturalization process, click here.    

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