Because it is the highest immigration benefit awarded many applicants encounter issues at the naturalization stage. That is why the most important step of the naturalization process is determining whether you are eligible to apply in the first place. It is critical to recognize that the risk is not simply that your N-400 could be denied, and the filing fee wasted. It is possible for a permanent resident to unknowingly lose residency status, or to otherwise become subject to grounds of deportation. For this reason, it is critical to assess not only whether a person appears to be eligible to naturalize, but to also ensure that there are no prior issues that could be grounds for deportation.
Even if you want to complete the paperwork and interview by yourself, consider scheduling a consultation with an attorney to analyze your case before you file.
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Frequently Asked Questions
No. In fact, a through, well-prepared application will actually help you get to the Oath Ceremony quicker. An officer can immediately notice a neat, organized, itemized filing, which greatly streamlines the process. Second, the officer sees the G-28, Entry of Appearance of Attorney at or near the very top, which immediately lets him or her know that an attorney has been retained. An ethical attorney would not represent a client who intends to commit fraud. The officer will assume that the attorney properly vetted the candidate (for fraud/misrepresentation, prior arrests or convictions, etc.) and will expect the attorney to raise any issues so the officer does not need to go looking for them.
Our approach is to explain that the negatives factors in our client’s case (e.g. conviction) was a “one-time occurrence” and our client is a “changed person”. Our applications persuade the interviewer to approve the case (in his or her mind) before our client steps into USCIS’ door. That way, as long as our client presents credible testimony at the interview, the adjudicator is bound to approve the case.
Our firm’s special strategies and techniques have results in approvals for clients with prior arrests or convictions, fraud, break in continuous physical presence/continuous residency, and/or issues involving lack of good moral character (GMC). For any complex naturalization matter, we prepare legal memoranda based on recent case law to set the stage for the filing, assist in preparing our client’s affidavit so it is thorough and persuasive, assist in revising compelling affidavits, and gather other supporting documentation. This approach allows us to establish a strong case even before our client steps into the adjudicator’s office for the interview.
A valued service is our representation at the interview. We do not browse our emails or carry on text conversations. We actually take notes on everything that happens at the interview and write down all questions and answers (in case we need to file an appeal). If a client does not answer the question thoroughly, we intervene and request that the client clarify (so the record is complete before the client leaves the room). We also read along with the officer as he or she goes through the naturalization application and make the same changes to the N-400 that the officer makes so our record is almost identical to USCIS’ record.
Yes! What many clients do not know is that the officer will go back through your entire immigration history and will conduct a thorough review that will focus on how you obtained your lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. For example, if you obtained your LPR status through the Special Agricultural Workers (SAW) program. The SAW program was fraught with fraud and U.S. immigration is aware of this. The officer will question you on your SAW application.
The most common example we come across for clients who encounter problems are those who received their LPR status through marriage. The naturalization applicant is often unaware that the officer will examine this relationship regardless of whether you are applying based on 3-years marriage to a U.S. citizen or 5 years of lawful residence in the U.S. If you obtained your green card through marriage, and are divorced at the time you apply to naturalize, be prepared to be questioned intensely on your marriage and why it ended. If you jointly filed an I-751 and told the officer during the I-751 interview that you and your spouse were living together, this is known as “false testimony” and the officer will discover this during your naturalization interview.
A conditional permanent resident may be eligible to apply for citizenship if he or she has accrued the requisite residence period even if he or she has not had her conditional residency lifted. Although the applicant can apply, his or her application may not actually by approved until the conditional residency is lifted (remember, a requirement for naturalization is to be a lawful permanent resident).
The application asks for “arrests” or “convictions.” So you should list the arrest even if you were not convicted. Like false testimony, convictions can preclude an applicant from proving good moral character. Another problematic area for clients are those who were convicted for crimes committed after becoming an LPR. A person can be denied for not having good moral character even if you only admit to having committed a theft during the statutory period.
We have experience dealing with individuals with multiple drug convictions, DUI convictions, fraud committed during the LPR process, failure to register with Selective Service, continuous residency/ physical presence, and good moral character issues.
Absolutely, and it almost always does. Technically, there is no limitation on how far back an officer can look to determine good moral character. The inquiry into a person’s moral character is not limited to the 5- or 3- year period. So the government may (in accordance with statute and regulation) choose to look beyond the 5- or 3- year statutory period.
The only limitation that USCIS has is that it cannot rely only on acts outside of the statutory period unless it is tied to conduct during the statutory period. This means that acts committed 10 years prior to the naturalization application filing date can only be considered if those acts “appear” relevant to the applicant’s current moral character or if the if the applicant’s conduct during the statutory period does not prove that he or she is “reformed.”
Wrong! When USCIS is looking at good moral character, the government can use expunged convictions. The N-400 requires a biometrics appointment. When you have your biometrics taken, they are run through the Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) database of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). CJIS is the world’s largest repository of criminal fingerprints and history records. One of INTERPOL’s core functions is to facilitate the exchange of criminal investigative information and data securely and rapidly. The organization’s I-24/7 global police communications system connects law enforcement officials in all 190 member countries and provides them with the means to share crucial information on criminals and criminal activities in real time.
If you have been fingerprinted in connection with a crime, anywhere in the world, USCIS will know about it. The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) is a national repository of fingerprints and criminal histories maintained by the FBI and its Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division. INTERPOL Washington collaborated with the FBI and INTERPOL Headquarters in Lyon, France, to develop a gateway to query and store international and domestic fingerprints within their respective systems. INTERPOL Washington’s INTERPOL Operations and Command Center has the capability to convert and run queries against repositories maintained by INTERPOL and INTERPOL Washington in real time.
Yes and yes. A person on probation, parole, or suspended sentence during the statutory period is not precluded from establishing good moral character. Although you can file while on probation, an application (that is approvable) will not be approved until after the probation, parole, or suspended sentence has been completed.
Yes. The N-400 specifically asks for the date of registration and the Selective Service number. Knowingly and willfully failing to register with the Selective Service between 18 and 26 years of age during the statutory good moral character period may cause USCIS to believe that you do not possess good moral character. There are certain excuses where a person may still be eligible even though he failed to register. If you are in this situation, we can help.
There are many non-statutory grounds that USCIS has used to determine that an applicant does not have good moral character which include:
- Nonsupport of dependents
- Adultery that tends to destroy a marriage
- Commission of unlawful acts that adversely reflect upon an applicant’s good moral character
- Failure to Register for Selective Service
- Driving Violations (disregard for parking laws or driving under the influence)
- Theft, credit card fraud, or other crime involving moral turpitude
- If you believe that you fall into any of these categories, please contact us.