At our October clinic we had an Irish immigrant who was a long time legal resident attend with an inquiry about his status. Residing here over twenty years as a legal resident, he was always in fear of applying for US citizenship because of an old offense in Ireland. It was a conviction for driving under the influence. He even thought to bring the certified docket sheet on the case.

Attorney Chris Lavery assured him that his particular offense was not a bar to US citizenship and we were able to start him on the process of naturalization. I was struck by the fact that he had lived with this issue for so long and his real dream was to become an American citizen.

Citizenship and good moral character

In general, an applicant for US citizenship must show that he or she has been a person of good moral character for the statutory period (typically five years or three years if married to a U.S. citizen) prior to filing for naturalization.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) is not limited to the statutory period in determining whether an applicant has established good moral character. An applicant is permanently barred from naturalization if he or she has ever been convicted of murder. An applicant is also permanently barred from naturalization if he or she has been convicted of an aggravated felony. Many legal residents have been deported as a result of criminal convictions.

A person cannot be found to be a person of good moral character if during the last five years he or she:
· has committed and been convicted of one or more crimes involving moral turpitude
· has committed and been convicted of 2 or more offenses for which the total sentence imposed was 5 years or more
· has committed and been convicted of any controlled substance law, except for a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana
· has been confined to a penal institution during the statutory period, as a result of a conviction, for an aggregate period of 180 days or more
· has committed and been convicted of two or more gambling offenses
· is or has earned his or her principle income from illegal gambling
· is or has been involved in prostitution or commercialized vice
· is or has been involved in smuggling illegal aliens into the United States
· is or has been a habitual drunkard
· is practicing or has practiced polygamy
· has willfully failed or refused to support dependents
· has given false testimony, under oath, in order to receive a benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

An applicant must disclose all relevant facts to the CIS, including his or her entire criminal history, regardless of whether the criminal history disqualifies the applicant under the above mentioned provisions. Arrests in other countries may also be an issue.

If you have had any previous arrest/conviction/visa fraud/marriage fraud issues, it is very important to get good legal advice before applying for US citizenship or any immigration benefit.

Legal Clinic

We had a good turnout at our legal clinic last week at the Banshee. Thanks to our volunteers who showed up on the night and to attorney Chris Lavery who donated his time. Irish immigrants were helped on a variety of issues including visa options, legal status, and US citizenship. Chris Lavery and Dan Harrington provide free consultations at our clinic each month. Our next legal clinic will be December 4th at 6:30 PM.

Email me today with your immigration query or a topic you would like us to cover:

 Disclaimer: Please note that the information contained in it is provided to inform generally, and is not intended as a substitute for individual advice. Immigration law is subject to frequent changes and individual circumstances can affect the application of certain legal provisions. For individual legal advice, please contact the Irish Pastoral Centre directly regarding upcoming legal clinics or consultation with an immigration attorney.