I got arrested before the naturalization oath ceremony; what should I do?

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Question:

I’m scheduled to be sworn in as a U.S. citizen in two weeks. A week ago I was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). Will this affect my ability to take the naturalization oath? Will I ever be able to become a U.S. citizen?

Answer:

It depends. Unless you are able to get a court document or “official disposition” of your DUI case with a dismissal or a verdict of not guilty, you will need to postpone the oath ceremony or reapply for naturalization at another time.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must ensure that all candidates for naturalization are still eligible on the day of the ceremony. That means that you must be of good moral character and not pose a threat to public safety. If you have a pending criminal case, USCIS is unable to make that determination, and will take you off the schedule until you are able to submit documentation showing USCIS how the case turned out.

Also, if you are given a sentence of probation, USCIS will deny your citizenship application, based on laws stating that you can’t apply for citizenship while on probation. You can later reapply for naturalization, after your probation has ended.

As a normal part of the oath ceremony, you will be asked whether you have been arrested or cited since your naturalization interview and whether you are a “habitual drunkard.” You must answer truthfully, as you could lose your citizenship or even be deported in the future if USCIS discovers that you lied in order to obtain an immigration benefit. For more on what to expect at the oath ceremony, see “You’re Not a Naturalized Citizen Until You Take the Oath!”.

As long is the DUI (or “DWI” in some states) does not involve bodily injury to another person, criminal intent, or a prison sentence of six months or more, and you do not have a history of alcohol-related arrests, it should not disqualify you from U.S. citizenship or put you at risk for deportation. However, you should seek the advice of both a criminal attorney and an immigration attorney. The exact type of crime (if any) to which you plead and the sentence you receive (even if it’s probation or rehabilitation) could make a big difference in your ability to apply for citizenship in the future.

 

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