Can I Become A U.S. Citizen Even If I Have A Criminal Record?

By Published On: February 24, 2023Categories: Vlog, Immigration, Naturalization

Becoming a U.S. citizen is a significant milestone that offers numerous benefits and opportunities. However, individuals with a criminal record may question whether their past offenses will hinder their chances of obtaining citizenship.

A criminal record does not automatically disqualify you from becoming a U.S. citizen. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) evaluates each case individually, considering various factors.

In this article, you understand the naturalization process and if you are eligible to become a U.S. citizen. It also highlights the impact of a criminal record on your naturalization process. Additionally, it explains the myths about health requirements, the importance of social security benefits, and how a lawyer can help.

Find Out If You Can Be A U.S. Citizen If You Have A Criminal Record

Understanding The Naturalization Process To Become U.S. Citizen

A criminal record can impact your eligibility to become a U.S. citizen through the naturalization process. The USCIS places considerable importance on assessing an applicant’s moral character during the application review. A criminal record may raise concerns about meeting this requirement. However, it is essential to note that not all crimes automatically disqualify individuals from obtaining citizenship.

When assessing an applicant with a criminal record, USCIS considers several factors. They consider the crime’s nature, severity, and how long ago it took place. Additionally, they examine whether there is evidence of rehabilitation and efforts made to lead a law-abiding life.

Crimes categorized as aggravated felonies or involving moral turpitude, such as fraud or theft, can present significant challenges to naturalization. Repeated offenses or multiple convictions can also negatively impact the application.

USCIS evaluates each case, emphasizing the importance of understanding this crucial aspect. The outcome may vary depending on the specific circumstances. An attorney can thoroughly assess your situation and consider the details of your criminal history. They can also provide personalized guidance on presenting your case to USCIS.

They can help you navigate the complexities of the application process. They can maximize your chances of success despite having a criminal background. Working with an immigration attorney at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law can offer valuable insights into the potential challenges and strategies.

It is for addressing concerns related to your criminal record. They can assist in gathering supporting documents and presenting a compelling case for your moral character. They can also address any specific issues during the application review. With this, it is essential to know the factors in applying for eligibility.

Eligibility Requirement

It is essential to learn the factors or requirements in determining eligibility for citizenship. As you note these factors, you can prepare yourself and save time.

Green Card Requirement

To apply for citizenship, individuals must typically have a Green Card. The length of time you must have depends on whether you are married to a U.S. citizen or not. If married, it is three years; if not, it is five years.

Continuous Residence & Physical Presence

Applicants must show they have had a continuous residence and physical presence in the United States. Any extended periods of absence, such as more than six months, may affect eligibility.

English Language & Civics Exam

Applicants must be able to read, write, and speak English. They must demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history and Government. There is a Civics exam as part of the naturalization process.

Good Moral Character

Applicants must demonstrate good moral character. It includes paying taxes, avoiding criminal activities, and adhering to the law. Criminal records, including DUI or DWI convictions, may affect eligibility but depend on the specific circumstances and timing.

Waivers For Disabilities Or Illnesses

Individuals with disabilities or illnesses that prevent them from meeting specific requirements. It includes passing the Civics exam and may be eligible for waivers or accommodations.

These factors could be relevant to your circumstances and improve your likelihood of successfully acquiring U.S. citizenship. However, some people think that health concerns have something to do with your eligibility. In line with this, you should also know about the myths and truths about it.

Truths About Health Requirements Misconceptions

While applicants must meet several requirements for U.S. citizenship, they must know the truth about the misconceptions and myths surrounding health requirements.

Vaccinations Are Required

Naturalization does not require vaccination, although it may be necessary during the Green Card application process. There may have been guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic regarding vaccinations. It was related to public health measures rather than a requirement for naturalization. The COVID-19 vaccine is also not mandatory for becoming a citizen.

Mental Health Requirement

The second myth is whether there is a mental health requirement for naturalization. Mental health issues, disabilities, or disorders do not prevent someone from applying for naturalization.

However, accommodations or waivers may be available for individuals who have difficulties learning. This ensures that their health condition does not prevent them from applying for citizenship.

It is advisable to seek legal advice to understand the specific qualifications for naturalization. In line with this, it is also essential to understand the impact of a criminal record on the process.

The Impact Of A Criminal Record On The Naturalization Process

The impact of a criminal record on the naturalization process can vary depending on the nature of the crime and the specific circumstances. 

Having a criminal record can affect the naturalization process in three ways.

First, if someone is deemed inadmissible due to their criminal record, they may not be able to apply for a green card in the first place. However, if they already have a Green Card, this is not a concern for the naturalization process.

Secondly, specific criminal incidents can make an individual deportable. It means they could face deportation if they have a criminal history. It is a significant red flag, and it is advised not to apply for citizenship in such cases.

The requirement of good moral character for naturalization is the third. While this does not make someone deportable or prevent them from obtaining a Green Card, it can affect their eligibility for citizenship during a specific time.

Certain criminal offenses may impact an individual’s ability to demonstrate good moral character. It is if they occurred within the past three to five years. In such cases, it is advisable to wait until the criminal offense is further back in their history before applying for citizenship.

Remember that every immigration criminal history is unique. Consulting an attorney will help you understand the specific implications of a criminal record on the naturalization process. With this, it is essential to understand the social security benefits while applying for naturalization.

Social Security Benefits

An Immigration Lawyer Can Give You Legal Assistance If You Want To Become A U.S. Citizen And Have A Criminal Record

Accessing Social Security benefits does not have any negative impact on an individual’s ability to apply for citizenship. The naturalization process does not take into account whether an applicant has used public benefits in the past. It does not affect eligibility for citizenship.

During the pandemic, many individuals and families faced challenges and needed assistance through programs. It includes unemployment benefits, health benefits for children, or food assistance programs. Accessing these benefits, if eligible, is encouraged and does not hinder the pursuit of naturalization. It provides support and stability for families by utilizing available public benefits when needed.

It is essential to separate the process of accessing public benefits from the naturalization process. Eligibility for public benefits may have specific requirements. However, these requirements are distinct from the criteria for becoming a citizen.

Therefore, individuals who are permanent residents can still receive the Social Security benefits they are eligible for. It is even if they decide to apply for citizenship in the future. It is essential to work with an immigration lawyer to help you with the process.

Work With An Immigration Lawyer

Becoming a U.S. citizen through naturalization is a significant journey that entails navigating intricate legal procedures. This process can be complex and overwhelming. Throughout this journey, seeking the assistance of an immigration lawyer at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law can be invaluable. They guide to ensure a smooth and successful path towards achieving citizenship.

  • A lawyer helps you withdraw your application.

If someone has already applied for naturalization but wants to withdraw, an immigration lawyer can assist them. The lawyer will guide the steps involved in withdrawing the application and ensure the process is handled correctly.

  • A lawyer advises on complex situations.

There can be complexities in certain cases, such as when an individual is separated from the spouse who was the basis for their Green Card. In such situations, consulting with an immigration lawyer is crucial to understand the specific implications. It also includes the timeline and requirements for naturalization.

  • A lawyer navigates the eligibility criteria.

An immigration lawyer can help individuals navigate exemptions from the English language requirement, especially based on age. They can guide available resources to study for the civics exam, making the preparation process more manageable.

A lawyer can be crucial in providing legal advice, clarifying doubts, and navigating complex situations. They ensure that individuals have the necessary support and guidance throughout the naturalization process.


A criminal record can affect eligibility for U.S. citizenship through naturalization. Still, not all crimes automatically disqualify applicants’ crimes like aggravated felonies or those involving moral turpitude present challenges.

Consulting an immigration lawyer is crucial for personalized guidance and maximizing chances of success. Meeting eligibility requirements, including a Green Card, continuous residence, language exams, and good moral character, is essential. Misconceptions about health requirements, vaccinations, and mental health do not hinder naturalization. 

If you have additional questions about citizenship, your criminal case, or your specific case, you can contact us at (855) 502-0555. After a brief 10-minute evaluation of your case over the phone, we will let you know what options you have. You can also follow us on our social networks so you don’t miss our weekly broadcasts on FacebookYouTube, and Twitch.

About the Author: Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch

I am the managing partner of Lincoln-Goldfinch Law. Upon graduating from the University of Texas for college and law school, I received an Equal Justice Works Fellowship in 2008, completed at American Gateways. My project served the detained families seeking asylum. After my fellowship, I entered private immigration practice. My firm offers family-based immigration, such as green cards and naturalization, deportation defense, and humanitarian cases such as asylum, U Visa, and VAWA. Everyone at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law is bilingual, has a connection to our cause, and has demonstrated a history of activism for immigrants. To us, our work is not just a job.

Share this story!

Contact a U.S. Immigration Attorney Today!

    How To Find Us

    Austin Office
    Lincoln-Goldfinch Law

    1005 E 40th St
    Austin, TX 78751

    Waco Office

    Lincoln-Goldfinch Law

    1616 Austin Avenue, Suite A
    Waco, TX 76701
    By Appointment Only

    Austin & Waco
    Call or Text: (855) 502-0555
    Fax: (512) 323-9351

    What Our Clients Say

    “This Lawfirm is great, very professional and helpful. I love that they are always in communication and always available for when you have questions . 100% recommended by me and my family. Thank you Lincoln-Goldfinch Law”