June 29, 2020
Hon. Robert Vinikoor (Ret.)
Permanent Residence Status Issues
Filing for citizenship is often viewed by many as an easy next step after obtaining lawful permanent resident status. However, the application and process can easily be fraught with complications that could not only lead to the denial of your application but also to a determination by USCIS that your residence status was unlawfully obtained. Having an attorney can address any issues present in your case, can help you determine if you qualify and guide you through the naturalization process.
Generally, you can apply to become a U.S. citizen if you are at least 18 years old and you:
– have been a permanent resident of the United States for five years; or
– are married to a U.S. citizen for at least three years; or
– are currently serving in the U.S. military.
Most naturalization applicants assume that simply having their “green card” for five years is all that is necessary. However, the USCIS officers have the authority to review and to determine whether the applicant’s permanent residence status was lawfully granted. Many times, the circumstances of a previous marriage that was the basis of the applicant’s permanent residence status can be challenged. Information listed on the naturalization application concerning the birth of children, addresses, or other information that was not disclosed or is inconsistent with information previously provided on the application for permanent residence can lead to a conclusion that the prior marriage was not bona fide. Under these circumstances, the naturalization officer could conclude that the applicant’s residence was not properly obtained, and that the applicant made a misrepresentation of fact. Not only does this lead to the denial of the naturalization application, but also may lead to the commencement of removal proceedings. Therefore, it is important to discuss this issue with an attorney to determine the proper course of action and to prepare evidence to rebut any possible negative conclusion.
Nonimmigrant visa fraud
A similar issue can occur when the naturalization officer determines that the applicant committed fraud or a misrepresentation of fact when he or she applied for their original nonimmigrant visa to come to the United States or even when they applied to change their nonimmigrant status after being admitted to the United States. This conclusion often leads to a determination that the applicant was inadmissible due to the misrepresentation and therefore not statutorily eligible for permanent residence status. This issue can complicate the naturalization process and lead to a denial of the application.
Good Moral Character
Another unsuspecting issue that may affect your eligibility for naturalization is the good moral character requirement. Applicants for naturalization must demonstrate that he or she is a person of good moral character. Some moral character issues permanently bar the applicant from being eligible for citizenship while others act only as a temporary bar. USCIS looks at the applicant’s conduct during the five years before applying for citizenship, however, earlier conduct can also be considered. Too often an applicant fails to list a minor arrest, citation or conviction that occurred outside of the required 5-year period believing that it will not be discovered or is too insignificant to matter. However, USCIS runs a criminal background check and attempts to determine if the applicant has lied during the naturalization process.
While the disclosure of minor arrests or convictions would not have ordinarily led to a denial of good moral character, applicants who are caught lying on their naturalization application, or during their naturalization interview, will be denied citizenship. More serious criminal convictions, however, that occurred even outside of the five-year period of good moral character, may often trigger removal proceedings. Therefore, if you have a conviction, it is important to discuss this with an experienced immigration attorney.
Taxes are another unsuspecting issue that can come up and affect the applicant’s citizenship eligibility. If the applicant is delinquent on their taxes, they can set up an IRS payment plan and show that they are making an effort to resolve their tax issues. Tax issues are not an automatic bar to naturalization, and USCIS has the discretion when considering the application to consider whether the applicant has voluntarily made an effort to become current.
Parent applicants are required to prove that they financially support their minor children who do not live with them. Applicants who are delinquent with their child support payments may be denied citizenship. However, owning back child support is not an automatic bar to naturalization. If the applicant willfully failed to support any dependents, then his or her application most likely will be denied.
Get Legal Help with Your Citizenship Application
Citizenship is a big step that comes with a variety of benefits and rights. It is important for you to know if there are any issues that will affect your application or even place your permanent residence status in jeopardy. Get in touch with Minsky McCormick and Hallagan, P.C., and we can answer questions about your eligibility and help you with your application.