How Does a Dismissed Criminal Case Impact a Citizenship Application

How Does a Dismissed Criminal Case Impact a Citizenship Application


“Case dismissal” is one of those terms that people use a great deal without truly understanding what it means. Misunderstanding the term, and misunderstanding exactly what USCIS is asking when they ask you if you have a criminal record, can get you into a lot of trouble when you’re trying to pursue a citizenship application.

The relevant questions are questions 22-28. These questions all pertain to your criminal history and ask if you’ve ever been arrested, cited, or detained by any law enforcement official for any reason, whether you’ve ever been charged with a crime (which is different from being convicted of a crime, though that’s the next question), whether you’ve ever been placed in an alternative sentencing or rehabilitation program, or whether you’ve ever been to jail or prison.

You cannot just check “no” if you’ve ever had any contact with a police officer for any reason.

It’s important to understand that you have to disclose all traffic and criminal records. That includes speeding tickets. That includes cases where you were arrested but not convicted of any crime. If you were charged with a crime USCIS has access to those records even if your attorney got you a deferred prosecution agreement, a dismissal, or an acquittal. Every single interaction you’ve ever had with law enforcement does have to be disclosed.

In fact, it is a good idea to track down the records of all the interactions you’ve ever had with the police and have them with you at the interview so you can produce them if asked. Long before you get to the interview you should have an attorney review these records so you can be advised on how best to handle them. 

You’ll even need to produce records of “civil violations.” In many states an expired tag doesn’t get you a ticket, but you still get a “civil violation” or “civil infraction” ticket. You still have to pay something and it still goes on your record. Did you get a “desk appearance ticket” for a minor misdemeanor? You need to disclose that too, even if you didn’t do any jail time, even if you didn’t pay a fine, even if you were acquitted. Disclose it all. 

For that matter you should resolve and pay all outstanding traffic tickets prior to your interview. The officer will ask if you have taken care of those tickets and you need to be able to say, “Yes, I have.” 

If you misunderstand a dismissed case to the point where you believe the case is just kind of “gone” and just answer “no” when asked if you have a criminal history then USCIS will most likely accuse you of lying, and then deny your application. 

Issues like these are an excellent reason why it’s so important to consult with an immigration attorney before tackling any major immigration form or matter. We can help you catch issues like this before you make a major mistake that can prevent you from becoming a citizen. 

Got questions? Not sure whether you have an issue that needs special care?

Get a consultation. Better safe than sorry!

See also:

Tips for a Green Card Marriage Interview

Why an Immigration Attorney is Your Best Bet

Citizenship Through Naturalization


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