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Can a Person Who Owes Child Support Apply for Naturalization?

Immigration officials place considerable importance on parents’ obligations to support their children. That means that if you owe child support, you need to take special steps if you want to apply for naturalization to become an American citizen.

Failure to provide support can give officials grounds to deny citizenship. An immigration lawyer with experience handling this type of situation can help you get past this conditional bar so that you can move forward with a naturalization application.

The Key Question in the Application Process

For an applicant who owes child support, the critical question on the application for naturalization, Form N-400, is Question 30(H) in Part 12. That question asks if you have ever “failed to support” any dependents.

It is important to realize that the question refers not only to child support ordered by a court, but any support a parent is expected to provide in their natural duty as a parent. Additionally, the question covers children living anywhere in the world, not just children in the United States. Parents are considered to have a legal and moral obligation to provide support to minor children, and failure to fulfill that obligation can cause serious problems.

Reflection on Moral Character

To become a citizen, an applicant must demonstrate that they have good moral character. If officials find out that an applicant failed to provide support for a minor child, that gives them good reason to rule that the applicant lacks the right moral character and deny the application. Failure to provide proper support could involve a situation where a parent deserts a child entirely or where they provide some support but just not enough to satisfy officials’ expectations.

The way an applicant can get over this obstacle is to show that extenuating circumstances prevented them from providing adequate support. For instance, the applicant might prove that they were unemployed due to an injury and that prevented them from having enough money to pay child support. Or they present correspondence to show that they honestly believed they no longer had an obligation to provide that level of support.

Steps to Address the Problem

Before applying for naturalization, an applicant should catch up on any overdue payments. All payments at the time of filing and throughout the naturalization process need to be kept current.

On the application itself, the applicant should include an explanation showing an acceptable reason that they fell behind on child support. The reasoning should make it clear that the failure to provide support is not evidence of poor moral character.

An Experienced Immigration Lawyer Can Help Overcome Child Support Problems

When applying to become a U.S. citizen, it is crucial to understand how immigration officials will interpret certain answers. You might think your answer is honest and complete, but officials could view your words as an attempt to hide the truth and commit fraud. It is a good idea to work with an experienced immigration attorney throughout the process, or at the very least, have an experienced legal advisor review materials before you submit them.

If you have concerns about child support or any other issues that could affect your naturalization application, contact the dedicated team at American Dream®™ Law Office. Our dream is to make your dream a reality.

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