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From Prison Bars to Citizenship in the United States

Each nation has its own specific sets of laws governing its immigration process whether it is as a short term visitor, employment or permanent residency. However, things become a bit more strict and undergo airtight scrutiny when the application is for citizenship. The scrutiny for US citizenship begins from the home country where every minute aspect of the applicant's life is verified from authentic sources.

Criminal records verification in the case of applicants to citizenship is basically divided into two categories in the home country:

  • Availing of records from law enforcement Agencies.
  • Getting a background check done by private agencies.

Applicants who are already inside the USA on other Visas and applying for naturalization are checked for the following:

  • Crimes records of the person during his/her residence in the USA available with law enforcement agencies.
  • Records of offenses of the person in the home country as may be retrieved from applicable law enforcement agencies.
  • Report of private agencies who have been entrusted by the concerned embassy or consulate to carry out verification on the anecdotes of the applicant.
Criminal Record Affect on Citizenship

Even if a report renders the application unsuitable, the applicant can go for a review. At the same time, offenses of a certain nature, whether committed in the native country or in the US itself, are grounds for permanent rejection. If the applicant had committed any of the below crimes, it is reason enough for an irrevocable ban:

  • Homicide
  • Aggravated felony. This is applicable only if the applicant was convicted after November 29, 1990.

However, there are other crimes too which have rendered many an immigrant application for naturalization inadmissible. They can essentially be summed up into eleven offenses.

Prison sentences totaling five or more years from single or multiple trials. However, political offenses of a certain nature qualify for an exemption. 

If the applicant or a close relative had benefitted from drug trafficking during the previous five years from the date of application, then the request can be rejected.

Criminal Record

Money laundering or abetting such activities with clear and conscious of the activities that the applicant was indulging in is another ground.

Having engaged in prostitution, procurement of sex workers or benefitting from prostitution activities are also offenses which are inadmissible to process the application.

Any crime that involves moral turpitude or any action or conspiracy to engage in such an activity, if proven, will render your citizenship application null and void. At the same time, pure political offenses falling in the category can be excused.

There is another offense which doesn't require a conviction to reject your application and that is the trafficking of a drug or any other controlled substance.

If the Attorney General or the consular officer has sufficient cause to believe that the applicant had trafficked, aided, abetted, assisted or conspired in such an activity, then there is no need for a conviction.

Criminal Record Effects

Violation of existing laws of any nation, an attempt or conspiracy to violate such laws on a banned drug or controlled substance is a sure cause for rejection of your application. 

Human trafficking is seen as a very serious offense by immigration authorities while processing an application for citizenship. It need not necessarily have happened within the United States. 

Even if a close relative of the applicant had benefitted within the previous five years from the date of application, it is a ground for rejection. At the same time, an offspring who was a minor at the time of receiving the benefit is exempted from this rule.

All experienced immigration attorneys are of the opinion that you should always seek the help of a seasoned lawyer to prepare and submit your application for naturalization. All original and relevant papers from the home country as well as those from within the USA should be made available to your lawyer for close scrutiny.


Search for anyone in the United States! 100% Confidential! Updated on September 17, 2019
Sensitive Information!