If you’re considering applying for citizenship to the United States of America, you first need to know if you’re eligible for naturalization. As you review the requirements, you may find one that you do not meet. What do you do?
It’s important to note the difference between requirements that, if not met, will make you permanently ineligible for citizenship, and those that may be fixed. There are only a few truly permanent bars: these include convictions for murder or aggravated felonies, as well as proven involvement in systemic persecution (such as genocide). There are many more bars that are only temporary, and you can fix them either on your own or with the help of an attorney.
1. You are a male and not registered for Selective Service
Applicants for citizenship are required to prove that as citizens, they would support and defend the United States; part of that includes registering for Selective Service. This is also required of citizens, permanent residents, refugees, asylum-seekers and even undocumented aliens. If you are a male and do not register for Selective Service, it is an automatic rejection. Luckily, this is very easy to fix – simply register before submitting your application.
2. You owe back taxes
If you owe taxes to the United States government, you are likely to be denied for citizenship. However, it doesn’t need to be a permanent barrier. If you can show that you’re trying to resolve your taxes (whether through a payment plan or other ways), you may be able to be approved.
3. You are unsure if you have “good moral character” as defined by USCIS
There are many ways in which the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may deem someone not of “good moral character.” Even traffic stops can contribute to a denial by the USCIS. However, as with the tax issues above, honesty is key. Generally, lying about a past crime will be more damaging than disclosure. USCIS usually looks just at the past three- or five-year period, but may look further if they believe there’s reason.
U.S. immigration law can seem daunting, particularly when it comes to the stringent requirements for citizenship. An experienced attorney can help you understand the particulars of your situation and what actions you may need to take in order to make acceptance more likely.