Disclosing a criminal record in an application for naturalization is just as important when applying for a nonimmigrant and immigrant visa application. An N-400, Application for Naturalization is the form used by lawful permanent residents when applying for U.S. citizenship through a process known as “Naturalization.”
Within the naturalization application form there is an entire section known as (Part 12. Additional Information About You (Person Applying for Naturalization) (Continued) found on page 14 of the application), dedicated to “Good Moral Character.” The questions asks about whether the applicant has ever committed any crimes, been arrested, cited, or detained, been charged with a crime, spent time in jail or prison amongst other questions.
This questionnaire raises questions and concerns of whether a traffic violation is a crime that needs to be stated in an N-400, Application for Naturalization. The answer is not entirely clear.
Basic Requirements to Qualify for U.S. Citizenship Through Naturalization
To be eligible for U.S. citizenship through naturalization all applicants must meet specific requirements these include:
- Having spent a particular amount of time continually residing and physically present in the U.S. (five years for most people)
- Having lived in the same U.S. state for at least three months previous to filing for the N400, Application for Naturalization
- Being able to prove literacy in English especially in reading, writing and speaking
- Passing a test of their knowledge of U.S. history and government
- Understanding and obeying the U.S. constitution
- Demonstrating good moral character particularly in the five years leading up to filing the naturalization application amongst other requirements
What Role Does a Good Moral Character Play in a Naturalization Application?
Whether you can exhibit good moral character depends in part on the decision of the immigration officer considering your case. Generally, to show good moral character, you must meet the standards of behavior in your community. Being a supportive family member, getting involved in community activities or charitable organizations, performing responsibly at a job and doing volunteer work are all signs of good moral character.
Committing crimes, of course, will not be in your best interest when it comes to showing good moral character. Particular crimes will automatically destroy your showing of good moral character, such as having committed:
- An aggravated felony
- Genocide or
- Torture or
- Any crime for which you were imprisoned for an aggregated period of 180 days or more.
It is quite unlikely that a traffic violation would put you into any of these categories as mentioned above. Even more so in any situation is the exact nature of the violation, how many of them are on record and whether the applicant took appropriate followup steps, such as paying fines and perhaps even enrolling in a remedial driving class after receiving a series of tickets. For instance, a person who was ticketed for running through a one four-way stop sign and immediately paid a fine will have a much easier time demonstrating good moral character than someone who got three tickets in a row for running a stop sign, failed to pay the fines or attend traffic school and was arrested as a result.
Were The Traffic Violations While Behind the Wheel
If the only tickets were for parking violations, that is, things like staying too long at a parking meter or parking your car in a red zone you might not even need to mention these on the Form N-400. Speak to an immigration law expert concerning traffic violations. Now, if the violations occurred while you were behind the wheel or your engine motor was running, your best bet would be to include those in the naturalization application.
A person who has been cited for a relatively minor moving violation, their naturalization application still stands a good chance of success. That person can improve his or her chances by waiting a little longer before filing an N-400 Application for Naturalization. This way a longer stretch of time during which no traffic tickets were received can be shown.
It is Best to Talk to an Immigration Attorney
When uncertain about whether a traffic violation is serious enough to disclose, talk it out with an immigration lawyer. It is generally better to divulge it and do everything in your power to explain to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) than to hide it and look suspicious as if you are withholding some information. Every applicant goes through a fingerprinting process so any crime committed that makes it on a criminal record will be revealed. If you encounter a hurdle and are in serious doubt talk to an immigration law expert to help you. Call Gambacorta Law Office at 847 443 9303. Our team of attorneys will assist you with the naturalization process.