Newly turned US citizens, if they have committed a felony, will be worried about their citizenship. The last thing newly turned US citizens want is to see their citizenship being revoked, because they had put a lot of time and effort in gaining it. This topic is also worrying especially since rules can change between the waiting periods for citizen application
Gaining US Citizenship
An immigrant can apply for US citizenship by either marrying a US citizen, joining the US armed forces, or by going through naturalization.
Citizenship Through Naturalization
The USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) is responsible for granting US citizenship. The four basic steps are as follows
Gaining a Green card
Also known as gaining permanent residence. Needs to be:
- Living in the US for 5 years as a lawful resident
- 18 years old up
- of good character
- Can read, speak, and write Basic English
- Understands the basics of the US Constitution and government
- Knows basic US history
Submitting Form N-400
- You can see a copy of the form here. The form also has a 725 USD fee
Submitting to a biometrics screening
- Finger-print and face photograph.
- International background checks to find any criminal records
- Civics test and a reading/writing test
- A USCIS officer will personally interview the applicant to judge their good character and give them the pledge of allegiance
You can see more details and current information on the USCIS website in the link here.
Citizenship Through The US Armed Forces
The US armed forces will grant US citizenship to green card holders after they served at least one year. The recruiter will also consider the ex-convict’s criminal history on a case by case basis if they have any, and which felonies are eligible for a waiver
The reader can find more information about joining any of the branches by clicking on the link for the:
Citizenship Through Marriage
Marrying a U.S citizen will help shorten the naturalization period down to 3 years if the applicant also has a green card. The reader can find more information about citizenship through marriage by going to the link here.
How Can a Citizenship Get Revoked?
Committing a felon will not revoke the ex-convict’s citizenship, but there are a few exceptions to this, so a US citizen’s status can be revoked if the following are true.
- Illegally obtained by false documents
- Information used during application was falsified or concealed
The Bars To Citizenship
The crimes that block felons from gaining citizenship are as follows
Automatic bars to citizenship are crimes which disqualify someone for US citizenship without exception, and can include
- Aggravated felonies
Temporary bars to citizenship are crimes which disqualify someone for US citizenship temporarily, and can include
- Operating an Illicit business
- Breach of trust (fraud, embezzlement, etc.)
- Drug convictions
- Having two or more felonies
- Usually disqualifies for 5 years
- More details on the temporary bars to citizenship can be seen on the USCIS website in the link here.
Applicants can be judged as having low moral character by the USCIS officer during the personal interview portion of the application process, even if they have minor offenses
What Happens During Denaturalization?
Denaturalization is when a person has their citizenship revoked.
- A federal court will first file a formal complaint against the holder in a federal district court
- The holder will have 60 days to file a response, and since this is a civil case, an attorney must be hired by the holder
- This gives the holder a chance to contest the complaint, to correct mistakes, to argue the claim was based on old or wrong information, or explain their situation to the court
The criteria set for the government to prove its case against the holder is usually very high, so they need very compelling evidence that the holder has not deserved their citizenship
However, if the prosecution wins, then the holder may lose their citizenship right away and be deported. If the holder had gotten their citizenship through false information, they will have to face criminal charges for fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1425 seen in the link here.
The Consequences of Denaturalization
Getting denaturalized is a serious matter, since the consequences not only extend to the applicant, but also to their dependents. If the applicant has children that were born outside the US and were counting on them to gain their citizenship in turn, then they will also lose US citizenship and have to leave with their parents.
Things become more complicated if the children were born in the US. If the parents are deported, according to the Detained Parents Directive, they will have three choices to decide what will happen to their children
- Deportation. This usually is the best option if the parents want to preserve family unity, but it gives up US citizenship for the children and will be troublesome for their future
- Be under the care of a legal guardian in the US. The Detained Parents Directive lets the parents to choose a legal guardian living in the US. Regaining custody rights in the future will be possible
- Foster care
If the parents got their citizenship through fraud, they will have to face criminal charges. However, under the Detained Parents Directive they still have the choice of choosing what happens to their children
If the children reaches legal age (18 or 21 years), they can sponsor their parents and help them gain US citizenship
If a person who just received US citizenship has committed a felony, they will not get deported. However if the felony is related to the process of getting citizenship, then the person will face denaturalization
The road to US citizenship is beset on all sides by hardship, the road which had since time immemorial had beckoned to the huddled immigrants since a century ago who yearn to breathe free to come to their teeming shore to live the American dream. Through hard work and perseverance, the hardships could be overcome and a promising bright future can be realized even in the harsh reality of today’s world