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Will a Criminal Record Affect my Citizenship Chances?


Those permanent residents wishing to apply for citizenship will be asked if they have been charged with a crime in the U.S. or elsewhere and depending on the crime in question, they could be kept from becoming citizens. Having an immigration attorney go over any criminal record beforehand would be a good idea. We have extensive experience providing effective immigration defense and criminal defense services. 

Temporary & Permanent Citizenship Denials

Convictions for murder or an aggravated felony, if convicted after November 29, 1990, will cause the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer to deny your naturalization application automatically. In addition, you may also be placed in deportation proceedings after USCIS realizes you have committed such a crime.

Other crimes can prohibit citizenship only temporarily. You can still receive citizenship if, after the date of your crime, you wait the same amount of years that you need to in order to meet the permanent residency requirement. USCIS will still consider your past deeds while they review your application and can choose to deny you.

Crimes that can make you temporarily unable to gain citizenship include:

  • Being convicted of two or more crimes which resulted in a combined sentence of at least 5 years
  • Spending 180 days or more in jail for any crime
  • Operating a commercial vice enterprise
  • Being convicted of or admitting to a crime of moral turpitude such as fraud
  • Committing crimes related to illegal drugs other than minor marijuana offenses
  • Obtaining most of your income by gambling illegally or having been convicted of gambling crimes

Crimes such as these may bar you from citizenship, but it is ultimately at the discretion of USCIS if they determine you lack good moral character.

For a deeper evaluation of your crime and your chances of being prohibited from obtaining citizenship, it is best to call a Dallas immigration lawyer who can explain the process in detail.