Red Flags to Be Aware of Before Submitting an N-400, Application for Naturalization

An Overview of Naturalization:

Naturalization is the process to become a U.S. citizen if you were born outside of the United States. If you meet certain requirements, you may become a U.S. citizen either at birth or after birth.

Eligibility for Naturalization:

To apply for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age at the time you file the application
  • Have been a lawful permanent resident for the past three or five years (depending on which naturalization category you are applying under)
  • Have continuous residence and physical presence in the United States
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English
  • Demonstrate good moral character
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government
  • Demonstrate loyalty to the principles of the U.S. Constitution
  • Be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance

You Can Use N400 Form to File for Citizenship

How to File N-400 Form?

You generally have two options for filing your Form N-400 with USCIS:

  • Online, or
  • By mail (paper).

Filing your Form N-400 online

You must create a USCIS online account to file your Form N-400 online. Having an online account will also allow you to:

  • Pay your filing fee online
  • Check the status of your case
  • Receive notifications and case updates
  • View personalized case completion date estimates
  • Respond to requests for evidence
  • Manage your contact information, including updating your address

Note for Attorneys and Accredited Representatives: You can also create an online account, which will allow you to manage all of your clients’ applications in one place

Filing your Form N-400 by mail

If you are applying based on being a current or former member of the military, a spouse of a current member of the military, or a close relative of a deceased member of the military, do not use this chart. Go to section 3 of this page to see where you must mail your form

If you submit Form N-400 on paper, you will receive a USCIS Account Acceptance Notice in the mail with instructions on how to create an online account to track and manage your case. You can find more details about filing your N-400 by mail here

Checklist for Submitting N-400

Documents You Will Need

  • A copy of your Permanent Resident Card
  • A copy of your marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • Form N-426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service (if applying for naturalization based on military service)
  • DD Form 214, NGB Form 22, or discharge orders (if applying for naturalization based on military service and separated from service)
  • A copy of your official military orders (if applying for naturalization based on military service and currently serving)
  • Evidence of your citizen spouse’s employment abroad (if applying under 319(b))
  • Two passport-style photographs (if you reside outside the United States)

Please Note:

  • When you apply for U.S. citizenship, you give U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) an opportunity to reopen your file
  • USCIS might go back to check whether or not you really were eligible for certain immigration benefits during that time
  • USCIS will also run a fingerprint check on you and might even look into your records with your home country

Your permanent residency could be stripped off if USCIS finds something negative about your past. Hence applying for naturalization, with past records of crime, fraud, drug use, and other illegal activities is very risky

We will talk about these red flags in this blog

Risks of Applying with A Criminal Record:

  • The requirements for U.S. citizenship include that the applicant have good moral character
  • Showing moral turpitude is harder, as there is no strict definition of this particular term
  • However, certain crimes create an absolute bar to U.S. citizenship (or at least a bar within a certain period of years)

Crimes That Permanently Bar Applicants from Citizenship

If you have ever been convicted of one of the following, you are permanently denied U.S. citizenship:

  • Murder
  • an aggravated felony (if the conviction was after November 29, 1990)

These Bars are Automatic

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer who interviews you and reviews your citizenship application will deny you naturalization

Additionally, you will probably be placed into removal (deportation) proceedings once USCIS finds out about your past criminal record

Crimes That Temporarily Bar Applicants from Citizenship

List of the Crimes that Might Make you Temporarily Ineligible for Citizenship:

  • You operated a commercial vice enterprise, such as solicitation, ran a call-girl ring, or sold pornography
  • You participated in illegal vice activities such as hiring a prostitute
  • You have been convicted of or admitted to a crime involving moral turpitude, such as fraud
  • You spent 180 days or more in jail or prison for any crime.
  • You committed any crime related to illegal drugs other than a single offense involving 30 grams or less of marijuana

Note: Admitting to using marijuana or being part of the marijuana production industry can block your application for citizenship on good moral character grounds, regardless of whether its use is legal in your state

Risks to Applying for Citizenship If You Used Fraud to Get a Green Card

  • USCIS sometimes mistakenly approves people for green cards or other immigration benefits (such as asylum) who were not eligible for them in the first place
  • But the agency has become more efficient at tracking down information from the past, including from foreign governments, and in reevaluating the green card approval at the time you apply for U.S. citizenship
  • You might also have unintentionally committed fraud:
    • For example, you received your green card through a relative whose own green card had already been revoked (canceled or taken away)
    • You turned 21 before you got a green card, not realizing that the category for “children” of permanent residents applied only while you remained younger than age 21, your green card could be invalid
  • Another common source of fraud issue arises when green cards are granted based on a second marriage
  • USCIS might have accepted a divorce certificate as valid in the earlier decision but decided to revisit that decision
  • If USCIS eventually finds that certificate to be invalid, the agency can decide that your current marriage—the one you received your green card based on—is also invalid and that you therefore no longer have a right to your green card, hence ineligible for U.S. citizenship

Risks to Applying for Citizenship If Employer Who Sponsored You Used Fraud in Obtaining Your Green Card

  • It gives rise to a difficult situation when an employer used fraud in helping the person obtain your green card
  • You might not even be aware of it, for example, your employer shredded the resumes of competing U.S. job applicants during the hiring process
  • You might not have realized the legal significance of your employer failing to pay you the prevailing wage after you showed up to start work

Risks to Applying for Citizenship If You’ve Spent a Long Time Outside the U.S.

  • If any of your trips lasted six months or more, you might run into an eligibility problem
  • USCIS presumes that a six-month trip (or longer) means that you made your primary home in another country and that your period of U.S. permanent residence is no longer “continuous.”
  • If USCIS believes you planned to make your primary home elsewhere (regardless of how short or long a time you stayed abroad), it can deny your citizenship and send you to immigration court for a decision on whether you should be removed

Risks to Applying for Citizenship If You Are a Drug User or Involved in Cannabis Industry

  • Illegal use or abuse of drugs is problematic for any green card holder
  • Instead of being approved for citizenship, you could be deported for having, at any time after being admitted to the U.S., been convicted of violating (or conspiring to or attempting to violate) any law or regulation relating to drugs (applies to any controlled substances).

However, an exception is made for people convicted of a single marijuana offense that involved possessing 30 grams or less for personal use. The immigration laws say that any noncitizen who, at any time after admission to the U.S. has been a drug abuser or addict is deportable

Note: This part of the law doesn’t require an actual conviction. If you admit to drug use (perhaps during your naturalization interview—and lying about it could get you into deep trouble, too), or USCIS turns up evidence on a medical report, this could be used as a basis to place you into removal proceedings

Risks of Applying for Citizenship If You Are a Member of the Communist Party or Other Totalitarian Party in The Past

  • If you have been a member of or advocate for the Communist Party or any similar totalitarian party, USCIS might refuse to grant your application for U.S. citizenship
  • U.S. immigration law requires citizenship applicants to show that they are attached to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and well-disposed to the nation’s good order and happiness. (See I.N.A. § 316(a))
  • This includes the applicant’s belief in representative democracy and the basic premise that any political change should be effected in an orderly way

If you have a worrisome past record, you might want to consult a reliable lawyer before you file your


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