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Conditional Bars to Citizenship on Your Criminal Record

man wearing a suit holding his hands together while wearing handcuffs

When applying for a visa or naturalization (citizenship) in the United States, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is likely to examine your criminal record to determine if there is any history of what may be considered a conditional or permanent bar. Conditional bars are those that may affect your eligibility to pursue immigration but are also viewed on a case-by-case basis.

Good Moral Character and Conditional Bars

In pursuing naturalization, an officer will determine whether you have established “good moral character” (GMC) within a specific period. To do so, they will evaluate any criminal convictions to determine what may be seen as a conditional bar. According to USCIS, conditional bars to GMC include:

  • Crimes involving moral turpitude
  • Two or more offenses with a 5 year combined sentence
  • Violation of controlled substance laws*
  • Being incarcerated for 180 days or more*
  • Falsely testifying under oath
  • Polygamy and adultery
  • Smuggling persons
  • Prostitution
  • Gambling
  • Currently are or have a history of being a habitual drunkard
  • Two or more DUI convictions
  • Failure to support dependents

*Includes some exceptions, which can be found here.

How Do Conditional Bars Affect My Application?

If you have a conviction on your record that may be considered a conditional bar, all hope is not lost. While it could potentially complicate your application for citizenship, it does not guarantee that you will be denied. USCIS uses a number of factors to determine whether someone with a criminal record can establish GMC, including:

  • The nature and seriousness of the crime
  • How much time has passed since you completed your sentence
  • Your age at the time of the crime
  • Whether the crime was an isolated incident or part of a pattern of behavior
  • Your efforts to rehabilitate yourself
  • Any evidence of your good character since the completion of your sentence

If you are concerned about how your criminal history could impact your ability to apply for naturalization, our experienced immigration attorneys can help you through the process. We have over 40 years of experience, nine offices across the United States, and provide services in over a dozen languages. Schedule a free consultation with Maney | Gordon | Zeller, P.A. by calling (800) 708-4399.


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