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If you are thinking about applying for American citizenship, you should know that there are criminal bars to citizenship that prevent you from obtaining such status. For example, having received a conviction in the United States or another country. 

Our Los Angeles immigration law firm also has criminal defense attorneys. Therefore, we are available to help aliens navigate these immigration processes and achieve the American dream. 


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Criminal Bars To Citizenship In 2024

Depending on the crime, the immigrant could be temporarily or permanently prevented from obtaining American citizenship. Therefore, you must maintain good moral character and have no criminal record.

For these cases, it is advisable that an immigration attorney evaluate each applicant’s specific criminal records. Below, we break down more about these criminal bars to citizenship that prevents you from becoming an American citizen.

citizenship in the usa denied for committing crimes

Crimes That Permanently Bar You From Citizenship

If you committed any of these crimes or a felonies crime since 1990, USCIS will not accept your citizenship application. You could also be deported from the United States.

how to clean a criminal record

In addition to criminal bars to citizenship, you may also be interested in knowing how to clear your criminal record

Crimes That Temporarily Bar You From Citizenship

  • Being a pimp, exercising or participating in prostitution. 
  • Running a porn business.
  • Have received a conviction for crimes such as fraud, deception or identity theft and others. 
  • Have been sentenced to a prison sentence of 180 days or more for any crime.
  • Be convicted of drug crimes (except for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana). 
  • Convictions of two or more crimes, the combined penalties of which resulted in a prison sentence of five years or more.
  • Participate and profit from illegal gambling or have been convicted of two or more crimes related to gambling.

These temporary crimes initially prevent you from obtaining U. S. citizenship. USCIS will deny your applications at first, but if you wait, after 5 years from your conviction, you can apply again. 

On our blog we have many of these crimes described in detail such as writing bad checks in California.

What Are Considered Other Bars To Citizenship? 

In addition to the aggravated felonies and those that temporarily prevent citizenship mentioned above, there are others that could influence the USCIS decision. 

For example, certain crimes such as:

If you think your application for American citizenship could be affected by a crime, call us now. Our lawyers will be able to answer your questions and clarify all your doubts. 

What Crimes Do Not Prevent You From Obtaining Naturalization?

The exceptions for crimes that do not imply an obstacle to applying for American citizenship are three: 

crimes that endanger american citizenship
  1. Crimes of a political nature. Having received a conviction for criticizing or politically confronting the government of the applicant’s country of origin.
  2. Juvenile crimes. Having committed a crime while a minor will not be taken into account to deny the naturalization application. Even in cases where the crime is a felony with aggravating circumstances.
  3. Minor offences. All those that do not qualify as a felony aggravated crime or crimes of moral turpitude, whose limitation to obtain naturalization is temporary.

What Is Necessary To Obtain American Citizenship?

In general, to obtain American citizenship, you must:

Although you can carry out the naturalization process on your own, it is best to obtain the help of our lawyers. This will greatly increase your chances of success.

For What Reasons Might Immigration Deny My Citizenship Application?

Aside from the crimes that prevent you from obtaining American citizenship, there are other reasons why your petition may be denied:

Have Tax Debts

If USCIS finds that you owe taxes, your application for American citizenship will likely be denied. Therefore, before submitting the application for naturalization, first:

  • Pay the taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), or 
  • Make a payment plan to pay off the debt. 

Failure To Pay Child Support

Parents of a minor who do not live with them must submit evidence of payment of support. If there is a written agreement or court order, include a copy of it when applying for citizenship.

It is essential to demonstrate compliance with your support obligations to avoid possible denials.

If you have fallen behind on payments, this may be a reason for denial, although your application may be considered. 

Failure To Register For Selective Military Service

Lawful permanent resident males between the ages of 18 and 26 must register for the selective military service. 

  • Before applying, men in that age range must register, otherwise you will be asked to do so. 
  • Men between 26 and 31 years old must present their respective registration. Failure to do so will result in the request being denied.
  • Men over the age of 31 do not need to register for military service to apply for citizenship. 

If you did not register on time, it is advisable to wait until you turn 31 to apply for naturalization. Of course, keep in mind that there are certain consequences for not registering, although it varies depending on your age.

Lack Of Good Moral Character

The definition of good moral character is broad. However, this is decisive to obtain naturalization. Therefore, the applicant must be able to demonstrate it.

Have A Criminal Record

Legal permanent residents who have been convicted of serious crimes are not eligible for citizenship. This is because there are certain deportable offenses

Misdemeanors affect naturalization if the application is filed within 5 years after being committed.

Multiple Traffic Violations

Being penalized many times for committing offenses or violations of traffic laws also causes problems.

Other Reasons To Deny American Citizenship

  • Failure to pass the English or Civics exam (U. S. History and Government). 
  • Failure to comply with the requirements of physical presence and continuous residence in the country.
  • Lying or committing fraud during the application process. 
  • Divorce before the three years of permanent residence required by law. 
  • Have less than three months of residence in the place where the application is submitted. 

Disclosing Arrest Records And Other Criminal History

Form N-400 requires disclosure of criminal convictions, arrests, and non-arrest offenses. This information is relevant to evaluating the applicant’s good moral character. 

Although this background does not imply an automatic prohibition, it could result in the denial of the application due to lack of good moral character. 

Likewise, providing false information should be avoided, as it leads to the denial of American citizenship. 

criminal bars that prevent you from becoming a us citizen

Are Crimes Outside The U. S. Taken Into Account?

Foreign criminal records are also considered in the evaluation for U. S. citizenship. 

However, there are exceptions, such as cases of refugees or asylees who have been unfairly processed. For example, for expressing their disagreement with their government and having been imprisoned for peaceful protests.

How Does Applying For American Citizenship Affect Me If I Am On Parole?

Pursuant to 8 CFR § 316.10(c)(1), an individual who has been convicted of a crime must complete the following periods before being approved for naturalization:

  • Probation or,
  • Parole.

There are no exceptions to this rule, since the citizenship application will not be approved while you are under any of the above. USCIS will postpone a decision on the application until this period is completed or ask the applicant to resubmit the application later.

Is It Safe To Apply For American Citizenship Upon Completion Of Parole?

Even after completing your probation, complications could still arise. Therefore, it will be necessary to investigate whether the crime that you committed would result in the revocation of your Green Card.

As if that were not enough, there is still the risk of deportation. Either way, in certain cases, postponing applying for citizenship may be a viable solution to address such issues.

When Is American Nationality Lost?

The reasons for losing U. S. citizenship are:

  • Running for public office in a foreign country under certain circumstances.
  • Commit an act of treason against the United States.
  • Enter the military service of a foreign country under certain conditions.
  • Be a naturalized American citizen who faces denaturalization for committing certain crimes.
  • Applying for citizenship in a foreign country with the intention of renouncing American citizenship.
Illegal reentry after deportation

What happens in an illegal reentry after deportation takes place? Does it have implications for citizenship? In our immigration blog we review the subject in detail.

How Many Questions Do They Ask For American Citizens?

The civics test has 100 questions, but you will only be asked 10 and you will pass by answering 6 correctly. 

Applicants who are 65 years of age or older and have 20 years of lawful permanent residence will take a 20-question civics test.

Did you know that if you want to get a Green Card after getting married, you must complete a series of Marriage-based Green Card interview FAQ questions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal bars to citizenship

What Should I Do If I Am Not Sure About My Good Moral Character?

If you believe that a problem related to good moral character may arise during the process of obtaining American citizenship, it is best to consult an immigration attorney. This will tell you if there is any legal impediment or obstacle to obtaining naturalization.

What Can I Do If I Was Denied American Citizenship?

You should not be discouraged, because you can submit a new application. This is because there is no limit to the number of times you can apply for naturalization. 

However, you will need to pay the filing fee for each N-400 form you file with USCIS.

Although it may seem like an insignificant detail, knowing how to dress for the citizenship interview is very important. To find out more check our article.

What Happens If I Lie In The Process To Obtain American Citizenship?

A single lie during the citizenship process can be sufficient reason to initiate a Green Card cancellation process. Additionally, it could put you in deportation proceedings from the United States and/or be charged with penalty of perjury in California.

How Can We Help You Confront Criminal bars to citizenship?

If you are considering applying for U. S. citizenship and have questions related to:

  • Your criminal record, or 
  • The requirement of your good moral character, we recommend that you contact our experts.

At Lluis Law, we are here to help you make your dream of becoming an American citizen a reality. 

We have a team of paralegals and lawyers who can advise you throughout the entire immigration process so that you can successfully submit your applications.


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