Can I apply for naturalization if I have a criminal history?
Possibly. There are many factors that determine whether you are still eligible for citizenship. It will depend on what happened, when it happened, and whether you received any sort of sentence. However, each case is different and we recommend that you call Project Citizenship to see how your criminal history may affect your application.
Are there any crimes that make me ineligible to apply for citizenship?
Yes. Some crimes prevent you from becoming a U.S. citizen. If you were convicted of an “aggravated felony” any time after November 29, 1990, you are not eligible to become a citizen. Other crimes that may make you ineligible are crimes of domestic violence or violation of a restraining order.
What is an aggravated felony?
Aggravated felonies are a set of crimes in immigration law that are very serious and can lead to deportation for legal permanent residents. Examples of aggravated felonies are drug trafficking, rape, fraud over $10,000, and burglary with a sentence of one year or more in jail. These are only examples and we encourage you to speak with Project Citizenship about your eligibility for naturalization.
Do I need to bring any documents about my criminal history to my naturalization interview?
Yes. For any arrest or criminal conviction, you are required to bring certified copies of the final disposition of each incident (sometimes called docket sheets) to your naturalization interview.
How do I get documents about my criminal history?
To get certified copies of your docket sheets, you should go to the court where your case was heard. Go to the Clerk’s Office and ask for certified copies of your record(s). If the clerk says that the court no longer has copies of your record, ask the clerk for a letter stating that the court no longer has the record.
All of my cases were dismissed and/or happened a long time ago. Do I still have to list them on my naturalization application?
Yes. You are required to list any time you have ever been arrested, cited (including speeding tickets), or detained by law enforcement for any reason, at anytime, anywhere in the world. Even if the case was dismissed or you only paid a fine, you have to list every incident on your application and get documents to show how each incident was resolved.
I was arrested in the last 5 years and I am still on probation. Can I apply now?
No. You cannot be approved for naturalization until you have successfully completed your probation. This is also true for any court-ordered payments you are required to make; the payments must have been made for your application for naturalization to be approved. Depending on why you received probation, you may need to wait to apply for a few years to show your good moral character.
What is a CORI? Do I need one?
CORI stands for Criminal Offender Record Information. A CORI is a list of a person’s criminal arrests, appearances, and convictions in Massachusetts. A CORI is helpful if you cannot remember when or where a criminal incident occurred in Massachusetts. However, it does not replace the need for certified docket sheets because USCIS will not accept a CORI report. Also, a CORI report may not list every single incident, so it is important to get complete records from every court in which you have had to appear.
How do I request a copy of my CORI?
You can request a CORI either online or by filling out and mailing in this form. The cost to request a CORI is $25.00, but you may request a waiver of the fee if you receive public benefits or have low income.
Do I have to disclose speeding tickets on my naturalization application?
Yes. The application asks about any time you have been arrested, cited, or detained by law enforcement for any reason. Speeding tickets should be listed on your application. If you do not remember when or where you received your speeding ticket(s), you can request a copy of your driving record from the Registry of Motor Vehicles here.