You have traveled the path to US citizenship for years. You have maintained all the valid documents, studied English and now have a deep understanding of the history and civics of this great country. You are ready and willing to swear the oath to the Constitution and make the United States your permanent home.
Unfortunately, you are afraid your past may come back to haunt you. An arrest from 10 years ago pops up on your records and you are afraid that it will derail your chances right at the finish line. What do you do? Now’s the time to speak with an experienced immigration attorney to understand your options.
The path to naturalization is hard enough without a past legal issue, such as an arrest, detention or probation blocking your path. The good news is that, while these issues may seem like a deal-breaker, they will not necessarily torpedo your bid for citizenship. You just have to make sure that when you are getting ready to apply, you have valid and legitimate documentation of all your past legal issues. This includes everything from arrests to incarcerations to plea agreements, even issues that were expunged from your record.
Last year, 654, 949 people became naturalized citizens. Demonstrating good moral character is critical to your naturalization application. While a criminal conviction creates an obstacle to that goal, it is not impossible. USCIS will discover your criminal history, so it is important that you understand your record and that you are able to offer proof and an explanation of your situation.
Before applying, however, it’s best to talk to an attorney who is knowledgeable about immigration law and the US citizenship application process to determine whether or not all of your documents are in order. Incomplete or improperly filed paperwork can cause a serious delay in the process and even raise some other red flags. An attorney can also help you gauge your chances of naturalization based upon the amount and type of infractions committed.
Everyone makes mistakes. But everyone also deserves the chance to live the American Dream. Don’t let fears about your past determine your choices for your future.
Michael Noriega has a long and successful track of defending immigrants’ rights and ensuring their fair treatment under the law in New Jersey. If you have any questions about immigration laws and the citizenship process, contact him at Bramnick, Rodriguez, Grabas, Arnold & Mangan, LLC for skilled legal guidance.