Every immigrant seeking to become a naturalized American citizen must spend a period of at least five years living in the United States (or must be married to, and live with, a citizen of the United States for at least three years), during which time they must demonstrate their good moral character by refraining from any act that would demonstrate a deficiency of moral character. The list of possible offenses that might affect a judgment of good moral character is varied, and includes offenses like bank fraud, smuggling, gambling offenses, adultery, polygamy, sale of controlled substances, and many others. USCIS has chosen to add to this list anyone who has been convicted, or pled to, two or more Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) offenses.
Additionally, USCIS has clarified that the judgment of whether a crime qualifies as a violation of the good moral character requirement will be based on the original crime which someone was convicted of or pled to, regardless of whether their conviction or sentence is modified later on appeal. This means, for example, if someone were to be convicted of burglary, but later the crime was reduced to petit larceny, the judgment on their good moral character would be based on the burglary conviction, not the petit larceny conviction. The only exception is if the change on appeal is a result of a “procedural or substantive defect” in the original proceeding; in other words, if the original conviction was the result of a mistake or misconduct.
These two changes can make it much harder for people to become naturalized American citizens, making it more important than ever that you have legal representation in your immigration case. The lawyers at Bretz & Coven, LLP are experienced in handling various immigration matters, including naturalizations, asylum applications, visa applications and more. For more information or to schedule a consultation
at our New York City or New Jersey law office, call (212) 267-2555.