Applying for Citizenship is an exciting moment in an immigrant’s life. Not only it is almost always the end of the applicant’s dealings with the federal immigration agencies, but it symbolizes the full inclusion of the naturalizing immigrant into American society.
In order to apply for naturalization, the applicant generally needs to be a legal permanent resident for a five years (exceptions applies to applicants who are married to American citizens, to members of the military, and to other discrete categories) and a person of good moral character.
There are many benefits associated with becoming an American citizen:
- A citizen can sponsor other family members to immigrate to the United States;
- There are several federal job opportunities available only to United States citizens;
- A citizen can travel with an American passport, and may spend unlimited time outside the country;
- The citizen is able to vote and run for office in local, state, and federal elections, having an active voice in shaping our government and future of our country.
Good Moral Character
It is a statutory requirement that each applicant for naturalization be a person of Good Moral Character. Non-payment of taxes, excessive alcohol or drug abuse, and non-payment of child support can weigh negatively in a determination of good moral character and lead the immigration officer to determine the applicant is not eligible for citizenship.
A finding that the applicant lacks Good Moral Character may result in denial of citizenship and the applicant may lose his or her application fee and need to apply for citizenship at a later point in time.
I have a misdemeanor or felony in my record. Am I eligible?
Clients who have committed a criminal violation in the past may still be eligible for naturalization, but should schedule a consultation with an attorney to determine their eligibility.
Some crimes—specifically crimes involving moral turpitude and the so-called Aggravated Felonies under immigration law—may bar naturalization and even trigger deportation.
Please note that even some misdemeanors may qualify as an aggravated felony for immigration purposes, a reason why it is important to schedule a consultation if there is a criminal history.