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Criminal records may affect applications for citizenship

On Behalf of | Dec 30, 2021 | Immigration And Naturalization

Lawful permanent residents, sometimes referred to as green card holders or LPRs, may wish to apply for United States citizenship. Rules exist for New Jersey residents who are interested in naturalized citizenship, including residency requirements. Those who owe back taxes might need to settle their obligations or face a possible adverse decision. Some issues aren’t too difficult to address, but an LPR’s criminal record could create a challenging stumbling block.

Citizenship applications and criminal records

Per U.S. immigration law, a lawful permanent resident with a criminal record could be permanently or temporarily barred from applying for citizenship. Whether the applicant could potentially overcome this issue typically depends on the severity of the crime.

Convictions for rape, murder and armed robbery would lead to an unavoidable ban. Essentially, violent, aggravated felonies make someone ineligible for citizenship. An LPR might end up facing deportation for committing such crimes, so the naturalization ban may not be the only penalty for a conviction.

Moral character and temporary bans

Immigration law statutes establish that naturalization is available to persons of “good moral character.” Violent felons do not fit that description, but others with criminal records may find that their naturalization remains available.

Someone who was convicted for nonviolent crimes and spent several years in jail might not face a permanent ban. However, the candidate for naturalization may find that he or she becomes ineligible for a few years. The waiting period may prove frustrating, but the requirement to spend additional years as a lawful permanent resident offers more hope than a permanent ban.

Lawful permanent residents could face other challenges based on violations of “good moral character.” Even mere ordinance violations related to intoxication may create issues. However, the issues might not be insurmountable if a person is determined to qualify for citizenship.