The option of becoming a U.S. citizen becomes available to most immigrants who have possessed a green card for five years or three years if the green card was obtained via marriage. One question our team of immigration experts often receives asks whether a green card holder who has been arrested or has a criminal record can still apply for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process. The answer will likely depend on the circumstances of the arrest and/or conviction.
According to current immigration law, any applicant for citizenship must be considered to have “good moral character”. Good moral character is a relatively open term and is not clearly defined. In most cases it is assumed that a citizenship applicant has, by default, good moral character, but certain actions can detract from that consideration. Too many negative actions could preclude a judgment of good moral character. And some negative actions could carry more weight than others. An immigrant convicted of assault would be less likely to be considered of good moral character than an immigrant convicted of speeding, for example.
Immigration officials will conduct a background check of anyone applying for naturalization. The background check will include checking your name and any aliases (such as your maiden name) against several criminal databases locally, federally, and even internationally. Should the background check turn up any negative information, immigration officials will have to decide whether they consider you of good moral character.
The uncertainty of the good moral character test is a very good reason to seek the help of an experienced immigration law firm. The Law Offices of Scott Warmuth can help green card holders navigate the process of naturalization and identify any potential roadblocks, and address them, in advance. We offer free consultations for our immigration services, so call us today at 888-517-9888 to learn more.