The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a policy alert today to give practitioners guidance on how certain “unlawful acts” could impact a person’s ability to naturalize. A person can become a naturalized United States citizen after establishing 3-5 years as a Legal Permanent Resident (green card holder) or through military service. A person must also be eighteen years old and have “good moral character” (GMC) to complete the naturalization process. The policy alert mentioned above concerns the GMC element of the naturalization process.
USCIS policy now states that the commission of, or conviction or imprisonment for, an unlawful act, during the period before a person naturalizes, could make the person ineligible to become a naturalized United States citizen. A USCIS Officer would analyze these on a case-by-case basis to determine if the unlawful act adversely reflects on a person’s moral character. The applicant for naturalization can attempt to refute the adverse finding by showing extenuating circumstances. An act could be considered unlawful if it violates a criminal or civil law of the jurisdiction where it was committed and the person is not required to have been charged with or convicted of the offense, for it make them ineligible for naturalization.
This policy alert is essential because the number of things that a USCIS officer could inquire about during the naturalization process is broader as a result of this policy change. The number of ways an officer could establish an unlawful act could be through an admission of the applicant, conviction, or other reliable evidence in the record. This change means that more people will need an attorney to avoid missteps in the journey to naturalization.
If you or your loved one want to start the naturalization process, please contact Chhabra & Gibbs, P.A., Immigration Team at 601-927-8430 or 601-948-8005 or by live chat. We would love to discuss your options and come up with the best solution for you.