Be very careful when applying for US citizenship. Many folks think this is the easiest part of the immigration process. Just a formality – however it can be a huge mistake for folks who’ve essentially, often unbeknownst to them, been very lucky. Particularly in recent years it seems that the United States immigration service sees the citizenship process as the last chance to find any reason to keep you out of the United States.
In order to apply for U.S. citizenship, you must meet certain eligibility requirements, including being a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), having a certain amount of time in the U.S. (usually at least five years), and passing an English and civics test. If you don’t meet these requirements, your application may be denied. These challenges are pretty easy to prepare for as long as you can read and write English with a certain amount of proficiency.
The trouble begins with background checks. As part of the application process, you will be required to undergo a background check, which may include fingerprinting and a review of your criminal and immigration history. If you have a criminal record or have violated immigration laws, this could result in your application being denied.
This is when issues that immigration may have overlooked or that have developed since you became a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) have arisen. Many times, you may not be aware of these issues until it’s too late. You are essentially “turning yourself in” to immigration if there’s an underlying issue. Immigration essentially let’s LPRs go about their lives in the United States even if they may be deportable. However, if you apply for citizenship they will take that opportunity to delve into your criminal and immigration history.
You may have plead guilty to a relatively minor crime because a criminal lawyer who doesn’t understand immigration advised you to do so and now, you’re removable from the United States and you just turned yourself in. Maybe many years ago you attended a language school with a student visa and now that school has been prosecuted for issuing fraudulent visas and your name is on a list of former students. You will be in big trouble if you apply for citizenship. Some folks hired a “broker” in their home country to assist with obtaining a visitor visa to the United States and unbeknownst to them the “broker” lied to the consulate about your background and that will be attributed to you now. Even this late in the game. There is no statute of limitations on immigration issues so no matter how many years have gone by you will still be in trouble with immigration.
It’s important to carefully consider the potential risks and benefits of applying for US citizenship before beginning the application process. While there are risks involved, many people find that the benefits of U.S. citizenship, such as the ability to vote and access to government benefits, outweigh the risks. If you are considering applying for U.S. citizenship, you may want to consult with an immigration attorney or other legal expert to help you navigate the application process and mitigate any potential risks.