Criminal convictions and naturalization

We Will Fight For You​

Let’s take the first step together and help you win your case.
We are here every step of the way.

Contact Us

THE EFFECT OF PAST CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS ON NATURALIZATION

Even if you are a lawful U.S. permanent resident with a green card and you are arrested and convicted of an offence or even if the charge has been dismissed, this could threaten your status in the country.

For a start having a police record could ruin your chances of gaining U.S. citizenship and you could even be deported. If the arrests have been dismissed by a court, the penalties aren’t quite so severe – but they still must be disclosed. There is no such thing as expungement in matters of US immigration and naturalization.  Even if the judge himself tells you that it can’t be held against you, it can.

One of the requirements for U.S. citizenship is being of moral character and this doesn’t just mean that you are not a convicted criminal. There are other components that make up “moral character”, such as consistent employment, trouble free home life and participation in community based activities like church, your child’s school and fundraising activities.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), when determining your moral character will focus on the 5 years before you submitted your citizenship application (3 years if applying as a spouse of a US citizen.). So if you were arrested in this time frame, even if the charges were dismissed, it would be tactical to wait a little longer before filing your citizenship application, depending on the type of arrest. This 5 year period is not fixed, as the USCIS may choose to look back further than this, but would be limited in terms of action able to be taken for acts that fall completely outside the statutory period.

Normally, in the case of crimes that could result in an immigrant being either deported or not qualifying for U.S. citizenship, a conviction should have taken place. However, there are some exceptions, including if the USCIS has “reason to believe” that you have been involved in prostitution or drug trafficking, or are a chronic alcoholic, or use and abuse drugs. This could involve an arrest but with no conviction. The USCIS decision maker may decide that your moral character is not good enough for citizenship.

Also, a holder of a green card while residing in the U.S. who is found to be a drug user, even without a conviction, can be deported. Basically, a green card holder who is thinking of becoming naturalized may inadvertently open a can of worms when it comes to his or her moral standing, whether a conviction has taken place or not.

All arrests must be disclosed

Form N-400 is the Application for Naturalization form and one of the form’s questions is: Have you ever been arrested or kept in custody by a law enforcer or cited? Another question is: Have you committed any crime or offense but you weren’t arrested? You may wonder who would answer yes to such a question. You’d be surprised at the number of times we’ve advised our clients to do exactly this: because the “crime” they would admit to wouldn’t bar their naturalization, but failure to admit to it would.

The USCIS wants the fullest and most reliable picture of your moral character.

If you fail to tell the truth on Form N-400 you could be putting yourself at risk in the future and even lose your right to citizenship. All citizenship applicants must undertake a fingerprint check, so any arrest is likely to be discovered.

Naturalization is very difficult to reverse, so it’s the last time USCIS will be looking at you, your background, and determining whether you deserve to be a US citizen. So be aware that N-400’s are scrutinized very carefully.

If you are in doubt about filing an application for citizenship you should contact an experienced immigration attorney who will be able to assess your situation and tell you when the right time is likely for an application.

Learn about other common natualization pitfalls, or return to the main Citizenship page.

Share on print

The HMA Law Firm

September 16th

The HMA Law Firm
Even after 20 years of practice, it still feels like magic: a client walking into the US, full of fear, no visa, no hope, and wins asylum, and as of today, proudly holds a green card. This case sticks out for me, though. Here's why:Former AG Jeff Sessions changed the law during his tenure to make cases like my client's nearly impossible to win. (Matter of A-B-) which has since been vacated under Biden.But at the time of his trial, it was still good law.Our judge made a crucial factual distinction based on how we presented the case, and actually held that A-B- didn't apply.It was legal poetry.My client, moments before the decision, came to me with tears in his eyes.He said, "Can you ask them to just grant asylum for my daughter? I'll go back if they do. The gang will kill me but at least I'll know my daughter will be safe."I still don't know who was cutting onions on the courtroom that day.Thankfully it wasn't necessary. The judge granted asylum to father and daughter.And now they have green cards.And guess what, haters? They did it the right way, even though neither of them had a visa when they entered the US!Contact us!📞: +1(703) 964-0245✉️: [email protected]🌐: linktr.ee/TheHMALawFirm ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook

September 9th

The HMA Law Firm
We're hiring! The HMA Law Firm, PLLC is an immigration law firm in northern Virginia dedicated to pursuing social justice. Some of our firm’s key practice areas include removal defense, humanitarian-based immigration, family-based immigration and naturalization, “crimmigration” defense, business immigration, and immigration-related federal court litigation.If you have a passion for immigration and immigrant rights and want to work in a place that combines advocacy with lawyering - hard but fulfilling work - our firm is for you.See the details below:www.indeed.com/viewjob?t=immigration+attorney+removal+defense&jk=2ac5b1047628ce82&from=iaBackPresswww.linkedin.com/jobs/view/3251935823/?refId=mXFzuIB7QHuQM6vDadqmTA%3D%3DContact us!📞: +1(703) 964-0245✉️: [email protected]🌐: linktr.ee/TheHMALawFirm#hiringnow #immigrationlaw #TheHMALawFirm ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook

August 31st

The HMA Law Firm
Ganesh Chaturthi is a ten-day festival, held to commemorate the birth of the Hindu god of wisdom, wealth, and fortune, Ganesha. It's observed with prayer, public and private displays of Ganesha idols, the chanting of Vedic hymns, and fasting. On the final day of the festival, an idol of Ganesha is carried in a public procession and plunged into a nearby body of water. When the clay dissolves, it is believed Ganesha returns to Shiva. Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most important festivals in the Hindu religion and is widely celebrated in Maharashtra, Telangana, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka, and other parts of India.Contact us!📞: +1(703) 964-0245✉️: [email protected]🌐: linktr.ee/TheHMALawFirm#ganeshchaturthi #ganesha #hindu #thehmalawfirm ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook

August 30th

The HMA Law Firm
Onam is a harvest festival in Hindu culture that welcomes the mythical King Mahabali through a ten-day festivity. It includes a variety of traditions such as Vallam Kali (boat races), Pulikali (tiger dances), Onathallu (martial arts), and a nine-course vegetarian feast called Onasadya on the last day. Women participate by creating carpets of colorful flowers in front of their homes, called Pookalam and they perform traditional folk dances. The elephant procession is the peak of the festival, with decorated elephants parading and dancing with people at the place of the procession.Onam is Hindu-based but not limited to Hindu castes, people from all communities can participate in this colorful event, which makes this festival a reminder that despite all the conflicts in the world, being from different places, and having different cultures, we can all celebrate cultural diversity in many forms.Contact us!📞: +1(703) 964-0245✉️: [email protected]🌐: linktr.ee/TheHMALawFirm#onam #hindu #thehmalawfirm ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook

August 29th

The HMA Law Firm
This holiday is celebrated on the last Monday in August to honor and remember all the revolution's heroes who helped establish the foundation for the country’s independence. The date chosen is intended to mark the 'Cry of Pugad Lawin' in August 1896, which was the first act of insurrection against the Spanish colonizers by the Katipunan, a hitherto secret Filipino revolutionary movement. This is seen as the start of the Philippine revolution and movement towards independence.On September 28, 1901, the United States Philippine Commission approved Act No. 243, which would erect a monument in Luneta to commemorate the memory of José Rizal, Filipino patriot, writer, and poet. The shrine was inaugurated on December 30, 1913, coinciding with Rizal's 17th death anniversary.Although the Philippines transitioned from authoritarian rule in 1986, the struggle continues every day due to the limited freedom of the Media, and restricted political rights and civil liberties.Contact us!📞: +1(703) 964-0245✉️: [email protected]🌐: linktr.ee/TheHMALawFirm#Phillippines #Political #Civil #TheHMALawFirm ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook

August 28th

The HMA Law Firm
Happy birthday to the realest and the best managing attorney, Hassan Ahmad!We wish you many blessings and a long and healthy life! ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook

August 26th

The HMA Law Firm
Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.Women’s Equality Day commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting the right to vote to women. The amendment was first introduced in 1878. In 1971, the U.S. Congress designated August 26 as Women’s Equality Day.There has been progress and reforms in several countries over the last decades like the 1973 decision of Roe v Wade which enshrined the legal right to an abortion in the US however, there are still many women and girls who suffer gender discrimination, including the US Supreme Court vote to roll back abortion rights. Women’s Equality Day helps us acknowledge the success stories of women of the past and perhaps most importantly, it reminds us that the struggle is not over yet.Contact us!📞: +1(703) 964-0245✉️: [email protected]🌐: linktr.ee/TheHMALawFirm#womenpower #womensrights #equality #TheHMALawFirm ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook

August 26th

The HMA Law Firm
Every year many people decide to immigrate for a variety of reasons such as employment opportunities, to escape violent conflict, environmental factors, education, or to reunite with family. The process of immigrating to the United States can be complicated, however, having expert guidance in immigration law can help you to understand the process of the law and understand eligibility so you can make an informed decision. We are here to help you!Contact us!📞: +1(703) 964-0245✉️: [email protected]🌐: ow.ly/gs4U50KsLop#Immigration #help #freedom #thehmalawfirm ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook

August 24th

The HMA Law Firm
Afghan Independence Day on August 19 commemorates the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1919 that ended British rule in the central Asian nation. This year we chose to write about it back-to-back with the Ukrainian Independence Day post as a reminder that Ukraine isn’t the only country who will not be able to celebrate freely and there should be international backing and recognition to all countries. In 2021, events leading up to the Taliban's takeover of Kabul in August exacerbated displacement throughout the country. For the 15th consecutive year in a row, internal displacement in Afghanistan increased with an additional 777,400 Afghans displaced across all provinces. The impact of the conflict on women and girls has been particularly devastating – 80 percent of all forcibly displaced within Afghanistan are women and children. “Afghanistan’s displacement crisis is one of the largest and most protracted in UNHCR’s seven-decade history. We’re now seeing a third generation of Afghan children born in exile,’’ says UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.Contact us!📞: +1(703) 964-0245✉️: [email protected]hmalegal.com🌐: linktr.ee/TheHMALawFirm#Afghanistan #Liberty #TheHMALawFirm ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook

August 24th

The HMA Law Firm
In 1918 January 22nd was recognized as the Day of the Declaration of Independence of the Ukrainian People’s Republic by the Ukrainian Diaspora, however, the current form of the holiday was celebrated for the first time on July 16th of 1991, on the first anniversary of the declaration of state sovereignty of Ukraine passed by the Ukrainian Parliament in 1990, but since the declaration of independence was issued on August 24th, 1991, the date of the holiday was changed.Due to the current situation, this year’s holiday is a reminder that every country should remain sovereign without threat of war or violence and that all the attention being brought to Ukraine should be used not only to help and support the Ukrainian people but also to consider the situation of many countries in the middle east, who have been under attack by more powerful countries for a long time and need the same support and help.Contact us!📞: +1(703) 964-0245✉️: [email protected]🌐: linktr.ee/TheHMALawFirm#Ukraine #Liberty #IndependenceDay #TheHMALawFirm ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook

August 24th

The HMA Law Firm
Freedom of religion or belief, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of association are interdependent, interrelated and mutually reinforcing. There are continuing acts of intolerance and violence based on religion or belief against individuals, including against persons belonging to religious communities and religious minorities around the world, and the number and intensity of such incidents, which are often of a criminal nature and may have international characteristics, are increasing.We should learn from history and act accordingly to stop and teach tolerance. Contact us!📞: +1(703) 964-0245✉️: [email protected]🌐: linktr.ee/TheHMALawFirm#freedom #religion #tolerance #thehmalawfirm ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook

August 15th

The HMA Law Firm
National Liberation Day in South Korea falls on August 15 annually and is also known as ‘Gwangbokjeol,’ which translates to ‘bringing back the light.’ This name represents the end of the darkness of Japan’s rule over South Korea. Gwangbokjeol is one of the few national holidays that is shared with North Korea, which also observes its Liberation Day on August 15. Contact us!📞: +1(703) 964-0245✉️: [email protected]🌐: linktr.ee/TheHMALawFirm#Korea #liberation #TheHMALawFirm ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook

What People Say About Us

Client Testimonials

Recent Updates.