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May I apply for U.S. citizenship after a criminal conviction?

On Behalf of | Apr 13, 2022 | Citizenship |

When applying for U.S. citizenship, you may undergo a background check. An official may review the past five years of your permanent residency in America. Certain actions and circumstances may affect the outcome of your application.

The American Immigration Council notes that applicants could run into problems with aggravated felony convictions. Aggravated offenses include minor nonviolent actions. Theft or not showing up for a court hearing may count as an aggravated felony.

Offenses that may not affect citizenship

Offenses that do not fall under the aggravated felony category may allow permanent residents to apply for citizenship. Charges in New Jersey that may not affect naturalization include a disorderly person offense. As reported by Project Citizenship, disorderly person offenses include trespassing or lewdness.

New Jersey’s traffic laws allow officers to stop a vehicle if they suspect the motorist is driving while intoxicated. As noted on the website, if your blood alcohol concentration level exceeds 0.08%, you may face a DWI charge. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, however, a DWI charge may not result in deportation. Because the charge is a traffic law violation, it may not affect your application for citizenship.

Behaviors and activities that may help applicants

Individuals applying for citizenship must show they have “good moral character.” Even with a charged offense, you may show that you learned from your mistake and have reformed.

As noted on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, your education and employment may show good moral character. You could also prove good character by paying taxes and becoming involved in positive community affairs.

If an offense does not classify as an aggravated felony, you may become a naturalized citizen. Permanent residents in New Jersey may apply for U.S. citizenship after serving their sentences. After completing probation and other court requirements, applicants must wait five years to apply.