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4 Issues That Will Affect Your U.S. Citizenship Application

The journey to U.S. citizenship or naturalization may feel like an overwhelming process. Immigration law can be hard to understand, and some requirements may feel daunting to some. Nowadays, many websites provide reliable information on applications for naturalization. U.S. government official websites also give updates about immigration laws. Also, many immigration attorneys in each state can help with the naturalization process.

Naturalization Process: Defined

Naturalization is the process where a foreign national is granted U.S. citizenship. Applicants who submit the requirements established by Congress through the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) get citizenship. U.S. citizen applicants must also observe specific guidelines to be eligible for citizenship.

There are several reasons for denying U.S. citizenship (or naturalization) applications. The naturalization process can be long and confusing. Learning about common application issues and how to address them is helpful.

This article discusses the common issues that could affect your U.S. citizenship application. This also applies to green card or permanent resident card holders looking to apply for U.S. citizenship. It is also important to remember the eligibility requirements may vary in each case.

Taxes

If the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) finds out an applicant owes back taxes to the U.S. government, it will likely deny the citizenship application. But tax issues are not an automatic bar to naturalization. Applicants who show that they're trying to resolve their tax issues may still be eligible for naturalization. For example, they can prove that they enrolled in an IRS payment plan.

USCIS officers exercise discretion in these decisions. They also consider whether the applicant entered a payment plan voluntarily and then made an effort to become current. As a result, it's a good idea to contact the IRS and work to resolve any tax issues you might have as soon as possible.

Child Support

Parent applicants must prove they can financially support their family members, particularly their minor children who do not live with them. If a court has ordered an applicant to pay child support, they must provide evidence that they followed that order. Proof of child support may include payment receipts, bank statements, or documentation from a child support agency.

The USCIS may deny citizenship to applicants who are delinquent with their child support payments. But owing back child support isn't an automatic bar to naturalization. The USCIS may deny the citizenship application of any applicant who willfully fails to support their dependents. But, parent applicants who can reasonably explain why they are behind on their child support payments may still be able to naturalize.

Selective Service

One of the naturalization requirements is the willingness to support the United States and the Constitution. The oath of allegiance formalizes this commitment during the naturalization ceremony. Another requirement for applicants is to register with the Selective Service System if required, as this demonstrates their commitment to the United States.

Male green card holders 18 to 25 years old must register and provide their Selective Service Number along with their citizenship application. The process is usually completed online, but the U.S. government may summon the applicant for a biometrics appointment.

If you're required to register and still need to do so, register at a U.S. Post Office or on the Selective Service System's website. Suppose you were required to register but failed to do so before you turned 26. In that case, you must fill out and submit the Selective Service System's Request for Status Information Letter and then submit your statute information letter to USCIS.

Need help finding your Selective Service number? Call 1-847-688-6888.

Good Moral Character

Applicants for naturalization must also show that they are a person of good moral character (GMC). Some moral character issues permanently bar the applicant from being eligible for citizenship, while others act only as a temporary bar. USCIS mainly looks at the applicant's conduct during the five years before applying for citizenship. But certain criminal acts before the defined statutory period can also affect their eligibility for citizenship.

To determine whether an applicant has good moral character, USCIS runs a criminal background check and attempts to determine if the applicant has lied during the naturalization process:

  • Criminal Record: Applicants convicted of certain crimes, such as murder or aggravated felony, are not eligible for citizenship. But certain criminal acts before the statutory period can also affect the eligibility for U.S. citizenship. The U.S. citizen applicant must present evidence of rehabilitation.
  • Lying: Applicants caught lying on their naturalization application or during their naturalization interview will be denied citizenship. If the applicant has already naturalized, their citizenship may be taken away.

The term "good moral character" is broad, and USCIS has also provided the following examples of other issues that might show a lack of good moral character:

  • Any crime against a person with the intent to harm
  • Any crime against the property of the government that involves fraud or an evil intent
  • Two or more offenses for which the total sentence was five years or more
  • Violating any controlled substance law
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Illegal gambling
  • Prostitution
  • Polygamy
  • Lying to gain immigration benefits
  • Failing to pay court-ordered child support or alimony payments
  • Imprisonment for 180 days or more during the past five years
  • Failing to complete any probation, parole, or suspended sentence
  • Terrorist acts
  • Persecution of anyone because of race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or social group

Continuous Physical Presence or Lawful Permanent Residence

Applicants for U.S. citizenship must have maintained continuous physical presence or lawful permanent residency (LPR) in the country for a certain period.

The general rule is that a person should continuously maintain lawful permanent residency in the United States for at least five years before applying for naturalization. The U.S. citizen applicant must also be physically present in the country for at least 30 months out of the five years before the date of the naturalization application (Form N-400). But certain exceptions and waivers may apply in some cases.

For instance, spouses of U.S. citizens are only required to maintain three years of continuous residency in the country. Also, U.S. military service members can apply for U.S. citizenship after one year. The continuous physical presence in the U.S. may vary in each case. If you want to learn more about the residency requirement, this article discusses this topic in detail.

It is also important to remember that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers immigrant visa opportunities every fiscal year. Noncitizens with Temporary Protected Status or those under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) can avail of these immigrant visa opportunities.

Seek Legal Advice From an Immigration Law Attorney

The intricacies of U.S. immigration law can be hard to understand. The process can be daunting, particularly for nonimmigrants or noncitizens looking at adjustment of status. Some are even facing the risk of deportation and looking to find ways to stay in the country.

Whatever your circumstances may be, it is best to seek help from an immigration attorney near you. They can help you understand your naturalization eligibility or the adjustment of status. They can find ways to navigate the complexities of immigration law and provide legal advice based on your case.

Finally, you need to stay informed about the changes in immigration laws. You can check the USCIS official website for updates. There are also U.S. government websites that cover topics related to immigration, such as the DHS website and its agencies.

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