New York Lawyer's Legal Updates

Unexpected Bars To Naturalization: Good Moral Character And More

Author: US Citizenship and Immigration attorney Alena Shautsova

In the law office of Alena Shautsova, NYC Immigration lawyer, we help clients to successfully obtain US citizenship.

US citizenship is the goal of many: it provides rights and responsibilities; visa-free access to many countries of the world, ability to petition for family members to come, and more…. The road to it may be easy for some, and bumpy for many. The basic qualifications for US citizenship can be found here

This article focuses on “unexpected” bars to citizenship. Almost everyone, I hope, is aware that if he/she has a criminal charge, any connection with marijuana, or any deportation/removal issues in the past, he/she should consult with an attorney prior to submitting a naturalization application. By now, it is almost a common knowledge that the US Immigration authorities may take into consideration even an expunged conviction when determining one’s eligibility for immigration benefits. See U.S. v. Hovsepian, 359 F 3d 1144 (9th Cir. 2004). It is also known (at least to many) that a period of probation or suspended sentence has to be completed before the citizenship application is granted. Also, failure to register for selective service may be ground for denial of the application if the person received the notice of the requirement to register but failed to do so. The good news here is that if a person is over 31 and failure to register falls outside of the statutory period, the person should be ordinarily found eligible for naturalization.

But there are some other “issues” that may present a problem for the unwary. They are related to the discretionary determination of good moral character requirement for naturalization. Note that USCIS is not limited to 3/5 years periods to look into one’s good moral character, and may consider acts beyond that time. For example:

Nonsupport of the dependents: consider a situation where one’s children reside in a different country… USCIS may inquire if the applicant is supporting them and how he/she is doing that. No default on child support court’s order is necessary here. So, be prepared.

Adultery tending to destroy a marriage: I honestly am not aware of any examples of denial of US citizenship based on this ground, but it is, in fact, the law!

Commission of unlawful acts that adversely reflect upon applicant’s moral character: this one ground that can “hit” one unexpectedly: imagine, that a person who was not charged, arrested or convicted of robbery and false impairment until after he became a US citizen could be denaturalized on a theory of illegal procurement of the citizenship because the acts were committed within the statutory period relevant for his naturalization application! U.S. v. Teng Jia Zhou, 815 F3d 639 (9th Cir. 2016). So,l under this particular ground, not only a person may be denied naturalization application, a granted application may be reversed in denaturalization proceedings!

Driving violations: failure to reveal and produce all records of traffic violations may be regarded as false testimony depriving one of citizenship. But traffic tickets themselves, even if there are many of them (twenty-three, for example (there was a case like this)) are not bars to naturalization.

Another potential roadblock is the start of the removal proceedings: an application for naturalization cannot be granted if a person has the Notice to Appear issued against them. However, military members, current and past, may be able to naturalize even if the removal proceedings are pending. INA 328(b)(2) and 329(b)(1). Once the proceedings started, only DHS can agree that a person is eligible for citizenship and only then a judge may terminate the proceedings.

Membership in a Communist party is a bar to naturalization, but only if such membership was meaningful: that is a person chose to join the party not to survive and not because he/she was forced to do so, but because he/she acted voluntarily and knowingly. This ground may still be relevant for persons coming from China, former Soviet Union countries.

If you need help with citizenship issues, please reserve a confidential consultation with our New York Immigration lawyers by calling 917-885-2261 or by booking it here

31 July 2020
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