Many immigrants from all over the world dream about becoming a United States citizen and getting all the benefits that come with that citizenship. Unfortunately, however, the citizenship application process is notorious for being complicated. Many immigrants make mistakes during the process making them temporarily or permanently ineligible for citizenship. Here are a couple of the most common mistakes made by applicants.
Spending too much time outside of the U.S.
While short trips outside of the U.S. are typically okay, longer trips (6 months or longer) may temporarily affect your eligibility for citizenship. Permanent residents who have taken longer trips may be required to prove they did not abandoned residence. Leaving the U.S. for more than a year can jeopardize the status of a permanent resident as well as their eligibility for citizenship.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), to remain eligible for citizenship, you must have spent at least half of the past five years living in the United States. If you are a permanent resident married to a U.S. citizen, you must have spent at least half of the past three years living in the U.S.
Getting convicted of a criminal offense
To become a citizen, you will need to establish ‘good moral character’ in the three to five years leading up to the filing of your application. In some cases, convictions prior to the three to five-year period can also be held against you, particularly if they are serious.
While a criminal conviction does not necessarily make you ineligible for citizenship, it is likely that you will at least be temporarily ineligible. Generally, if you have been convicted of a crime involving ‘ moral turpitude,’ drug possession, prostitution, or other listed crimes, or a crime that resulted in 180 days or more in jail, you will likely be temporarily barred from obtaining citizenship. An aggravated felony or murder conviction issued after November 29, 1990 will result in permanent eligibility.
Missing documents and/or providing inaccurate information
Failing to include all necessary supporting documents with your application may result in a delay in processing. Your application must also include fully accurate information. Even the slightest mistake can result in a delay, and even denial, of your citizenship.
To avoid some of these common pitfalls, it may be in your best interest to contact an immigration and naturalization attorney who is knowledgeable about the citizenship process. Your attorney can help put you on a smoother, quicker path to citizenship.