How deep will USCIS dig when you file for naturalization?

MANY people think that once they obtain their green card, they are now “home free” as far as eligibility and entitlement, and that if they pay their taxes and do not commit crimes for the next five years, they can file for U.S. citizenship and be approved without any problem.

Such optimism may not be justified or accurate.  If there were any issues in connection with obtaining your green card, or your green card was issued in error or by mistake, the USCIS could uncover those issues or mistakes when you file for naturalization.  Depending on the nature of the issue or mistake, USCIS could not only deny your naturalization but could also take steps to revoke your green card and/or put you in removal proceedings.

Under Pres. Trump, USCIS has become very tough in connection with processing and approving petitions and applications.  When a person files for naturalization, USCIS will pull their file and go back to analyze how they got their green card, even examining issues from when the person may have initially entered the U.S.  If USCIS overlooked a potential issue when granting the green card, they would take the position that you obtained your green card “unlawfully,” and therefore, were not entitled to it.  If you’re not entitled to the green card, you are not entitled to naturalization and could be subject to deportation/removal.

Some issues that may have been overlooked (or were not caught) when the person’s green card was approved include:

They were petitioned by an employer, and while the case was pending, they changed employers without notifying USCIS.

They were petitioned as a spouse, but before getting the green card, the couple separated or divorced, without them notifying USCIS.  Or the person got a conditional green card and when they filed a joint petition to remove conditions two years later, the couple was already separated or divorced,  and they did not advise USCIS.

The person committed some form of fraud which was not disclosed or discovered when the green card was approved, such as: getting a green card as “single” when they were secretly married; submitting fake diplomas, transcripts, experience letters, etc.;  having gaps in status before adjustment was granted, such as having stopped working for an employer while supposedly in H-1B status or stopped going to school while holding a student visa, etc.

Having committed fraud, but being approved for green card without submitting a fraud waiver

USCIS will definitely thoroughly examine the case in detail, with an eye towards evaluating whether the green card was approved in error.

If you are considering filing for naturalization, you should consider first consulting with an attorney who can evaluate your case, spot potential problems or issues, and assist in helping address or resolve those issues, to greatly increase your chances for approval and avoid the stress or aggravation of unnecessary investigations.

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Michael J. Gurfinkel has been an attorney for over 35 years and is licensed, and an active member of the State Bars of California and New York. All immigration services are provided by, or under the supervision of, an active member of the State Bar of California. Each case is different and results may depend on the facts of the particular case. The information and opinions contained herein (including testimonials, “Success Stories”, endorsements and re-enactments) are of a general nature, and are not intended to apply to any particular case, and do not constitute a prediction, warranty, guarantee or legal advice regarding the outcome of your legal matter. No attorney-client relationship is, or shall be, established with any reader.


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