Some issues and pitfalls in pursuing US citizenship: Part 1
IMMIGRATION CORNER - Michael J. Gurfinkel (The Philippine Star) - December 19, 2015 - 9:00am

For many people, attaining US citizenship is the final step in achieving their “American Dream.” After getting a green card, they eagerly count off the years until they are finally eligible to apply for naturalization. However, for some people, applying for citizenship could cause problems, issues, and even being stripped of their green card and deported/removed. Applying for citizenship is not always a simple, straightforward task that a person should handle on their own. Instead, they may want to seek the advice or guidance of an attorney.

Here are just some of the many issues or problems a person must consider before filing for naturalization:

Did the person obtain his or her green card lawfully? In some situations, people were able to obtain their green card even though they were not legally entitled to it. For example, a person was petitioned by a parent as “single,” but they were already “secretly” married. They were able to get their green card, and now attempt to file for citizenship. In many cases, USCIS digs deep into their case, and can discover the secret marriage in connection with their naturalization application. Not only is their naturalization application denied, but they may be put in removal/deportation because they obtained their green card through fraud or misrepresentation.

If a person obtained a green card through an employer’s petition, did the person work for that employer at the prevailing wage? Many people obtain their green cards through an employer’s sponsorship (PERM or labor certification). One requirement is a person must work for the employer for a reasonable time after obtaining their green card. Some people never really worked for the employer who petitioned them, or they quit working for the employer before they adjusted status or get the green card. If a person is applying for naturalization based on an employment-based green card, one of the first questions they will be asked is whether they ever work for the employer. If they did not, or quit before adjusting status, their green card could also be in jeopardy. Similarly, if they were being petitioned at a certain wage (the prevailing wage), but were never paid that wage, it could also result in problems, as they may be asked to produce their tax returns and pay stubs, documenting they were paid the wage specified in the petition.

Did the person commit any crime while a green card holder? After obtaining a green card, a person may have been arrested or convicted of a crime, such as shoplifting, domestic violence, DUI, etc. They may have even pled guilty, as some form of plea deal and later had the conviction expunged. However, certain crimes could make a person ineligible for citizenship, and may even affect their status as a lawful permanent resident. There have been many cases where a green card holder committed a crime, which “woke up” DHS when they filed for naturalization, resulting in them being placed in removal/deportation proceedings. If a person was ever convicted of certain crimes or pled guilty to those crimes, they are still considered convicted, even if they later had the conviction expunged.

As you can see, there are so many issues that could come up in connection with a person’s eligibility for naturalization. In my next article, I will discuss more issues and pitfalls that one may encounter in pursuing his or her US citizenship. 

If you have any questions about your past, or eligibility for naturalization, you should definitely seek the advice of an attorney before filing for naturalization. This is because once you file, and USCIS starts digging into your past, you may have dug a hole for yourself.

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