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Can a Person With a Criminal Record Apply for Naturalization?

As you probably know, a criminal history can stand in your way to getting U.S. citizenship and can even lead to deportation. But will any type of conviction automatically bar you from naturalization?

Fortunately, for many immigrants found guilty of criminal charges, naturalization with a criminal record is often still possible, although it can be more complicated.

Attorney Ahmad Yakzan of the American Dream® Law Office in Tampa, Florida, explains below how criminal records influence naturalization and how a skilled criminal defense and immigration lawyer can help in your application for citizenship.

Naturalization and the GMC Period

Immigrants applying for naturalization need to show that they have lived in the United States for a certain period and maintained a “good moral character” (GMC) throughout that time. The “GMC period” lasts five years for most people, and three years for people living with a U.S. citizen spouse.

A criminal conviction within the GMC period may lead the USCIS to decide that you have violated the “good moral character” requirement and deny your application for citizenship. Because of this, immigrants with a criminal conviction often choose to wait until the end of another full GMC period (i.e., five or three more years) before applying for naturalization.

What Criminal Offenses Will Block Your Road to U.S. Citizenship?

Some aggravated felonies will bar you from U.S. citizenship forever. These include:

  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Trafficking controlled substances
  • Some DUI offenses
  • Money laundering or income tax evasion above a certain threshold

Other convictions, like a protective order violation, may lead to deportation even without being permanent bars to U.S. citizenship. Applying for naturalization with deportable convictions may cause instant removal proceedings.

Minor offenses, like speeding or a parking ticket, usually won’t prevent your naturalization but may still cause USCIS to inspect your moral character more closely.

How an Experienced Immigration Attorney Can Help Achieve Your Naturalization With a Criminal Record

A criminal history may prevent a clear outcome in your naturalization case. It’s important to understand that USCIS officials have a lot of discretion in granting or denying citizenship, and it’s hard to predict whether your specific conviction will cause USCIS to reject your application.

Working with an experienced immigration lawyer can tip the scales in a complicated naturalization case. With your entire future at stake, you want the best possible legal help you can get.

Your immigration attorney can:

  • Explain your rights and legal options under U.S. immigration laws
  • Work to protect you from deportation
  • Help you present evidence of good moral character
  • Make sure your application form meets all USCIS requirements
  • Appeal your case if USCIS denies your application

American Dream® Law Office, PLLC: Supporting You on Your Path to U.S. Citizenship

When a criminal conviction stands in your way to the long-awaited U.S. citizenship, working with an experienced immigration lawyer can determine the outcome of your application. Attorney Ahmad Yakzan, a former immigrant, will help you fight for your American dream.

For legal counsel on naturalization with a criminal record, call the American Dream® Law Office at (888) 991-3336 or schedule a strategy session online.

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