Becoming a US citizen is the last step in any US immigration journey that is often long and fraught with anxiety. Many people who are at that stage know that they meet the basic eligibility requirements, and are eager to file the application to become a US citizen as soon as they are eligible. However, before jumping into the process, it is worthwhile to pause and consider the most important thing before filing for naturalization, which is – was I eligible for my greencard at the time that I received it?
USCIS will look at the validity of your greencard as the first thing they consider when examining your naturalization application. Simply having a greencard does not mean that USCIS cannot re-examine its validity at the time of naturalization. In fact, under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 335, USCIS is obligated to conduct a “personal investigation” of any applicant for naturalization, unless they choose to waive it. This means that an applicant’s entire personal and immigration history is examined before a naturalization application is approved. Any mistake in the greencard process, whether done knowingly or unknowingly, can be reversed at the time of naturalization by initiating the process to take away the greencard.
Recently I consulted with 3 different greencard-holders who filed their naturalization applications on their own and ended up putting their legal status in jeopardy. The first one received his greencard through his mother’s petition. He had no idea that he was actually not eligible for a greencard at the time because he was married, and his category of applicants were not allowed to be married at the time of getting the greencard. Instead of getting his US citizenship, he is now facing the real possibility of losing his greencard because USCIS has now initiated removal proceedings against him.
The second client received his greencard through his wife from whom he has been divorced for over 10 years. When he filed for citizenship, USCIS started accusing him of having a fake marriage at a very late stage in the process, even after he had passed all the naturalization tests. The validity of his marriage was examined and approved at the time he received his greencard, but years later USCIS again began to question its validity when he applied for naturalization.
The third client received her greencard because she has been a refugee in the United States for more than 20 years. When she filed for citizenship, USCIS accused her of not getting her refugee status properly. There are options and ways to fix all of these scenarios, and we are now working with all of these people to help solve their issues. However, it is always better to know the risks of filing for naturalization before the application is filed. If you are thinking of taking this important step in your immigration journey, save yourself a lot of time, headache, and money in the future by consulting with us first to make sure that there are no problems with your greencard. Give us a call at (415) 895-0661 to see if we can help.