I have a Green Card, how do I become a U.S. citizen?
Individuals can become U.S. citizens in two ways. First, citizenship is acquired automatically by being born in the United States or by being born in another country and having parents who are U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals. Second, by acquiring citizenship through the application process called "Naturalization".
Generally, applicants must have maintained lawful permanent resident status for five (5) years immediately before applying for naturalization or three (3) years immediately before applying for naturalization if married to and residing with a United States citizen spouse. Additionally, a thorough criminal background check, an exam of the English language, a test of basic U.S. history and good moral character is required to go through this process.
Do I need to disclose any arrests which did not result in a conviction, or any unarrested crimes, in my USCIS application?
An applicant should always disclose any arrests, convictions, unarrested crimes or other countervailing evidence concerning certain arrest or convictions to USCIS. The important word here is "disclose". Even if the crime was minor, USCIS may deny a naturalization application if the crime is not disclosed in the application. Usually, unless a traffic incident was alcohol or drug related, the applicant does not need to submit documentation of such incidents which did not involve an actual arrest if the only penalty was a fine less than $500 and/or points on the applicant's driver's license.
What are the consequences on the Naturalization Process if I have a traffic and/or a criminal offense in my records?
A mere disclosure does not mean that a crime will not affect a naturalization application. A murder or an aggravated felony (with a conviction after November 29, 1990) automatically bars citizenship. It is crucial to consult an attorney to learn about the USCIS definition of an "aggravated felony". Any "crime of violence", theft or burglary resulting in a prison term of one year or more may be considered an aggravated felony. Under some circumstances, even driving under influence can be considered an aggravated felony.
Other crimes may make a person temporarily ineligible for citizenship. We can advise on whether you will have a problem applying for a citizenship if you have been arrested or convicted for a crime. Feel free to schedule a consultation to discuss your case further.