One of the questions I get asked a lot is whether a person will get deported for an arrest or crime conviction. This is a normal concern and I would be scared too. Whether or not you’re going to be deported for a criminal conviction is going to depend on the conviction. Immigration has a broad range of crimes that make you removable from the United States. Even if it’s a misdemeanor under criminal law, that doesn’t mean it’s a minor offence for immigration law. Generally, drug offences are going to always make you removable from the United States, except in the case of a small amount of marijuana if you are in the United States. Anything else, such as a theft offense, a fraud offense, or a violent felony can make you removable from the United States.

 Just because a criminal lawyer says something was dismissed, may not be true for immigration law.

Often time a lawful permanent resident will make the mistake that a plea agreement for time served, probation or conditional discharge is not a conviction, but it is for immigration purposes.  Just because a criminal lawyer says something was dismissed, may not be true for immigration law just because under criminal law it wasn’t a big penalty. If you didn’t go to jail and only did probation, that does not mean it’s not serious for immigration law. It’s very important to understand the criminal conviction and bring that to an immigration lawyer with all of your documentation to discuss it thoroughly and make sure you understand the consequences of that criminal conviction.  This can affect your chance of  applying for citizenship, if you decide to travel outside the country or even apply to renew your green card.

It is very important that your criminal lawyer tells you the immigration consequences or you speak with an immigration lawyer.

Most importantly, if you are dealing with a criminal case currently and have pending charges, it is very important that your criminal lawyer tells you the immigration consequences or you speak with an immigration lawyer. This required under criminal law now that a criminal lawyer makes certain that you understand the immigration consequences.

If you are in this situation and you would like to discuss the specifics of your case, please call our office to schedule a consultation via Skype or telephone. Because immigration is federal law, I can help you anywhere you live. We have clients in other countries, like Kuwait, Germany and throughout the U.S. whom we have never met in person and still help them get to their goal.

I am the owner and founder of Dahlia R Castillo Law Firm: A Virtual Immigration Law Office. My goal was to create an alternative way of providing immigration service at the convenience of the clients anytime and from anywhere by using bank grade technology. 

Immigration Raids: Do You Have A Plan?

Are you or someone you love at risk of being deported? Do you have a plan of what you will do if you are approach by an ICE agent? Over the past few days, we have received news of immigration raids in these cities:

– Baltimore, MD
– Charlotte, NC
– Atlanta, GA
– Medford, MA
– Houston, TX

ICE is out on the prowl  and may be in your area. This means you should have plans of action in the event that immigration touch the door.

What is ICE?


Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is one of the federal government agencies responsible for deporting people. ICE is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Check List: Are You or Your Family Member at risk of being arrested by ICE?

ICE targets certain immigrants for deportation. Common targets include:

Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) with prior convictions

Be aware: You may be a target even if:

• Your conviction is from years ago;

• You didn’t serve time in jail;

• Your case was minor or a misdemeanor;

• You’ve been an LPR for a long time; and/or

• All the other members of your family are US citizens.






Undocumented people with violations or convictions

Be aware: You may be a key target if you:

• are undocumented and have a conviction

(for example: DUI “driving under the

influence,” drugs, domestic violence,

unlawful gun possession, or child

endangerment; or

• You entered the U.S. on or after January

2, 2014 and/or you have been ordered

deported since January 1, 2014



Are ICE agents approaching anyone they think they can deport?

ICE agents know  ahead of time who they want to arrest. They go to homes, courthouses, shelters and even workplaces to look for that person. Sometimes they wait on the street of your home and work to make the arrest.

If you are at risk, MAKE A PLAN!

  • Make a plan with your loved ones in case you are picked up by ICE!
  • Avoid contact with Immigration – don’t apply to change your immigration status or to renew your greencard and don’t travel outside of the United States without talking to a lawyer first!
  • Avoid contact with the  police. They will share your fingerprints with Immigration!

ICE approach you on the street or in public

When ICE agents arrest someone in public, it typically happens quickly. They may call your name out loud and ask you to confirm your name and then arrest you.

  • Before you say your name or anything else, ask, “AM I FREE TO GO?”
  • If they say YES: Say, “I don’t want to answer your questions” or “I’d rather not speak with you right now.” WALK AWAY.
  • If they say NO: Say NOTHING! Tell them, “I want to use my right not to answer questions” or “I want to exercise my right to remain silent” and then say “I want to speak to a lawyer.
  • If ICE starts to search inside your pockets or belongings, say, “I do not consent to a search.”
  • DON’T LIE or show false documents. Don’t flee or resist arrest.
  • Don’t answer questions about your immigration status or where you were born. They will use any information you provide against you. Do not hand over any foreign documents such as a passport, consular IDs, or expired visas.
  • If you are in Criminal Court for a court date, ask to speak to your defender before they take you away.

ICE Shows Up At Your Door

ICE often pretend to be police and say they want to talk to you about identity theft or an ongoing investigation. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR! If this happens, Say “I’d rather not speak with you right now.”


ICE CANNOT come into your home without a SIGNED warrant OR if you let them in. If they say they have a warrant, tell them to pass warrant under your door before you open it.

ICE Shows Up At Your Door

  • Find out if they are from DHS or ICE.
  • Try to stay calm. Be polite. Don’t lie. Say “I don’t want to talk to you right now.
  • Politely ask to see a warrant signed by a judge and to slip it under the door. If they don’t have one, decline to let them in.
  • If they are looking for someone else, ask them to leave contact information and to slip it under the door. You don’t have to tell them where to find the person and you should not lie.

ICE Is Inside My Home

  • Tell them if there are children or if there are adults that cannot care for themselves at home.
  • Ask them to step outside, unless they have a warrant signed by a judge.
  • If they came inside without your permission, tell them “I do not consent to you being in my home. Please leave.”
  • If they start to search rooms or items in your home, tell them “I do not consent to your search.”
  • If ICE is arresting you, tell them if you have medical issues or need to arrange for childcare. What are my rights if I am being arrested by ICE?
  • You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to speak to a lawyer.
  • DO NOT LIE. It can only hurt you in the future.
  • You do NOT have to share any information about where you were born, what your immigration status is, or your criminal record. Ask to speak to a lawyer instead of answering questions.
  • You do NOT have to give them your consular documents or passport unless they have a warrant from a judge.
  • You do not have to sign anything.


If you or a loved one is deportable, have a plan!

To find out if you or a loved one is deportable, call office at 888-638-5157 #2


Top 10 Benefits of U.S. Citizenship

With the 2016 presidential election on the horizon, it begs the question, how many of you lawful permanent resident (LPR) or green card holders have thought about becoming U.S. citizens or have pending U.S. citizenship applications? Being a U.S. citizen has many benefits.

Main Benefits

The advantages of becoming a U.S. citizen over a permanent resident are many. Here are the top .

1. No Need To Renew Your Green Card. As a U.S citizen you will not need to renew your green card every 10 years  and you will no longer be required to carry your green card with you.

2. The Risk of Removal (Deportation) is Reduced. LPRs or Green Card holders may be removed for committing certain crimes. A U.S. citizen who commits a crime cannot be deported with certain limited exceptions. For example, if you lied to get your green card or U.S. citizenship, it will be revoked (taken back).

3. Easier Travel and Re-Entry into the U.S.  As green card holder, upon returning from your trips aboard, you generally have to deal with the long lines reserved for green card holders. This will no longer be the case when you are a U.S. citizen. These lines are generally shorter. Also, in many instances, you can visit foreign countries without a visa.

4. Ability to Take Long Trips Outside the United States. You will be allowed to take long trips out of the United States without the risk of losing your ability to return.

If you leave the U.S. for more than 180 days (6 months), as a permanent resident, you may lose your green card upon re-entry into the U.S. The immigration officer can deem that you have abandoned your green card and deny you entry back into the U.S. If you know you are leaving the U.S.for more than 6 months you should speak to an immigration attorney. You may be able to obtain a re-entry permit prior to leaving the United States. This would allow you to travel out of the United States for as long as 2 years without abandoning your green card.

5. Ability to Petition More Family Members. U.S. citizens can petition for more types of family member than  than green card holders. For example, only U.S. citizens may petition for  parent, siblings, married children and their fiancee. The waiting time for U.S. citizens petition is incredibly shorter than a green card holder.  If you wish to petition a family member, please consult with a competent immigration attorney before taking any action.

6. Ability of Your Green-Card-Holding Children to Become U.S. Citizens. When you become a U.S. citizen, your unmarried children under 18 will automatically become a U.S. citizen too!  However, they must meet the following criteria: They must be lawful permanent residents; they must be residing in the United States; and they must be in the legal and physical custody of the naturalizing parent.

7. Ability to Vote and to Run for Public Office. Only U.S. citizens may vote. Naturalized U.S. citizens can run for most elected public offices.

8. Ability to Obtain Federal Jobs, Grants, and Other Government Benefits. Certain jobs require U.S. citizenship. These include many local, state, and federal government jobs. Many federal grants and scholarships are available only to U.S. citizens.

9. Tax and Estate Reasons. U.S. citizens and green card holders are not always treated the same for tax and estate purposes. Speak to a Certified Public Accountant about these issues.

10. Ability to Obtain a U.S. Passport. U.S. citizens have the right to obtain a passport and the ability to obtain assistance from U.S. Embassies and Consulates when traveling in other countries.

Becoming a U.S. Citizen is 4 easy Steps

  1. You must meet the eligibility requirements. See Why is Good Moral Character Important for Permanent Residents?
  2. Submit form N-400 and pay the $680 filing fee (as of 2015)
  3. U.S. Citzenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) will scheduled an appointment for fingerprinting and a background check. If all goes well, you will interview with a USCIS immigration officer and take an English reading, writing and civics test. Some green card holders may be exempt from the English and Civics Requirements for Naturalization​.
  4. If all goes well at your naturalization interview, you receive a letter from USCIS with information for your Oath Ceremony where you will receive your certificate of naturalization.

Virtual Immigration Attorney: You Don’t Have to Give Up Time To See A Lawyer

VILO pic

What is a Virtual Immigration Law Office?

A Virtual Immigration Law Office (VILO) is an online law office that operates from the lawyer’s home or satellite office by providing a secure environment to clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week. VILOs provide an incredibly convenient way to take care of legal needs online while you work.

The VILO is NOT a DOCUMENT SERVICE that just provides pre-printed forms.

The VILO is NOT a DOCUMENT SERVICE that just provides pre-printed forms. I PERFORM much of the SAME tasks of traditional immigration law Office. I PREPARE ALL my clients for their USCIS interviews and consular interviews via Skype. I even attend the USCIS interviews with my clients if they need me.

Our legal fees are fixed, which means that they will not increase after you sign the fee agreement. Since every immigration case is unique, all clients are provided with an individualized attorney fee quote for services before we undertake your specific case.

4 Easy Steps:

How Does The Virtual Immigration Law Office Work?

SET UP A CONSULTATION: Sign-up and Pay for a consultation on-line or over the phone with a licensed attorney regarding your legal needs in a secure online website. You can speak to the attorney while on a lunch break or in your pajamas.
FEE AGREEMENTA fee agreement and attorney fee quote based on your specific circumstance will be emailed to you. You can email, fax, or mail the signed agreement and pay. Payment Plans available if you qualify.
VILO ACCOUNT CREATED: A VILO account is created and you receive your log-in credentials the attorney fee online or over the phone.
GET TO WORK: Welcome to your VILO! Now you can complete a questionnaire and upload the required supporting documents using your personal log-in credential. Documents requiring original signatures will be mailed to a P.O. Box.

Morale of the story….?

We can HANDLE your IMMIGRATION case whether you live in LOS ANGELES, NEW YORK or ANYWHERE in the UNITED STATES.

You do not have to take off time to meet with an attorney. No need to take off work, travel to a law office or wait to meet with an attorney.  You can use the VILO anywhere. You receive the same level of representation from a licensed attorney from the comfort of your home.
The VILO provide affordable immigration services in all areas of immigration law, including, but not limited to permanent resident green card, 601 A Waiver, K-1 Visa/Fiancee visa, US Citizenship and Naturalization law. Free initial immigration consultation by telephone or email are available to determine if you have immigration options.  The end!

Criminal Immigration: Did You Take An Immigration Safe Plea?

If you are an undocumented immigrant who have been arrested on criminal charges, you face two serious legal problems. First, you could be convicted of the crime and sentenced to jail or prison; and second, you could also be deported, whether you are convicted or found not guilty of the underlying criminal charge. If you are a legal resident in the U.S. and have been arrested, you are at risk of losing your immigration status (i.e. deported).


Undocumented Immigrant charged with a crime

It is highly likely that a noncitizen defendant (i.e. lawful permanent resident or LPR) or an undocumented immigrant defendant (UID) who was charged with a crime  and accepted plea for a lesser sentence or no jail time, between March 31, 2010 and December 1, 2013, is at risk of removal/deportation.

So what does this Mean? 

If you are a permanent resident (or green card holder) who accepted a plea deal and as a result of this plea deal you did not serve any jail time or you were offered less jail time in your criminal case, you are at risk of being deported. This is because the burden to inform the defendant of immigration consequences to his plea lies with your defense attorney.   Now, however, effective December 1, 2013, the burden is shared by the Court, as required by the amendment to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.  In Padilla v. Kentucky, the Supreme Court held that criminal a defense MUST advise their noncitizen defendant of the immigration consequence that they may face if they accept a plea agreement. A criminal defense attorney’s failure to advise the defendant concerning the risk of removal is a violation of the Sixth Amendment.  That is right- as a non-U.S. citizen, YOU still have rights guaranteed to you by the U.S. Constitution.


How will the Court now protect your plea from immigration consequences based on the Padilla case?

Your criminal defense attorney MUST advise you (or consult with an immigration attorney) directly before you enter a plea, “If you are convicted, and you are not a United States citizen, you may be removed from the United States, denied citizenship, and denied admission to the United States in the future.”  But, this warning follows many other warnings of direct consequences of a plea, which means that you may not be paying much attention.


How can you ensure that you do not plead guilty to an offense that carries severe immigration consequences?

As the Supreme Court correctly pointed out in Padilla, “deportation is an integral part-indeed, sometimes the most important part- of the penalty that may be imposed on noncitizen defendants who plead guilty to specified crimes.”  My best answer to this question is for you to hire a criminal attorney who is well versed in immigration law, or a criminal defense attorney who will proactively seek the advice of an immigration attorney before entering your plea.

An immigration attorney who can proactively work out a safe plea is essential, especially after this new amendment.  While it appears that the new amendment protects you, it is actually to your detriment.  Rather, the new amendment protects the government and the Court from a defendant’s motion to vacate the conviction.


The Benefits of Working with an Immigration Attorney

Most criminal defense attorneys do not know the immigration consequences of crimes and or convictions. An immigration attorney can assist your criminal defense attorney by doing the following:

  • Review the paperwork in advance of the consultation, and brief legal research as necessary.
  • Review the noncitizen’s Intake Form and ’s immigration history and criminal cases;
  • Review the Chronology with the noncitizen to make sure it is accurate, and to add additional dates that are relevant to the analysis of the immigration problem and its potential solutions;
  • Analyze the noncitizen’s immigration status and the immigration consequences of the criminal history at each point throughout the Chronology;
  •  Identify the immigration risks the noncitizen faces, and seek arguments against the adverse immigration consequences that might flow from each conviction.


 Final Note….

If you are a noncitizen who have committed a crime, it is important that you contact a criminal defense attorney who is knowledgeable about immigration law or an immigration attorney to advise you on your options.  Likewise, if you have been offered a plea deal or have a conviction and uncertain of the effects of this plea deal or conviction on your immigration status, contact an immigration attorney to see if there are option to have that conviction vacated.



Frequently Asked Questions: Immigration Benefits for Same-Sex Couples

Green cards, visas, and other immigration benefits have been a reality for same-sex marriage couples since the Supreme Court’s landmark gay rights decision in United States v. Windsor, which invalidated DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act”) and reinforced on Friday by the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges . Thankfully, legal discrimination against LGBT immigrants is no more. Now, same-sex married couples are afforded precisely the same rights and benefits under U.S. immigration laws as are opposite-sex married couples.

Dahlia Castillo is a strong supporter of the LGBT community and uses considerable skills and experience to help gay, lesbian, and transgendered immigrants and their families achieve their immigration objectives.

These FAQs address some of the questions anticipated by LGBT families with immigration issues following these two landmark cases.

If I am in a same-sex marriage, can I file a green card petition on my same-sex spouses behalf?

Yes, you may file your petition.  Your eligibility to petition for your same-sex spouse will have to meet the general criteria for marriage-based immigration for opposite-sex spouse.

If my partner and I entered into a civil union (for example in New Jersey) or a Domestic Partnership (for example in California) with all the rights of marriage, but are not actually married, can I sponsor her for a green card?

The answer to this is not entirely clear, and we hope to have guidance on this soon.  If it is possible for you and your partner to marry even if you have to travel to a different state to do so, you may be better off marrying because you could then feel more secure in filing right away without having to wait for further guidance.

I am in the U.S. legally on a non-immigrant visa that allows me to have the intention to stay in the U.S. (for example an H1B or L1 visa).  I am married to my spouse; can she file a green card application for me?

Yes, as long as the two of you are lawfully married, and you meet the other general immigration marriage requirements, you should be able to apply to adjust status to lawful permanent resident and process your paperwork from within the U.S.

I am in the United States on a non-immigrant visa (for example a tourist or student visa) that required me to demonstrate that I did not have the intent to immigrate to the U.S.  Is it a problem for me to marry my partner and have her file a marriage-based green card application?

Maybe.  As with many areas of immigration law, this is an area that will involve a fact-intensive inquiry by the USCIS.  It is considered acceptable to enter the U.S. with the intention to remain here temporarily and then have your intent change as circumstances in your life change.  For example, a university student might meet someone after attending school here and decide to marry that person months or years after entering the U.S. on a student visa.  On the other hand, if a person enters the U.S. on a tourist visa, marries, and applies for a green card within three weeks of entering the U.S., USCIS may conclude that the individual misrepresented her lack of immigrant intent to the immigration official at the airport and this could lead to a denial of the application.  This is the law for different-sex couples, and we expect it will apply identically to same-sex couples.

I entered the U.S. with a visa several years ago and never left.  Can my U.S. citizen spouse file a green card application for me even though I am now here without legal status?

Yes.  While the general rule under U.S. immigration law is that you cannot change your status from unlawful to lawful from within the United States, one very important exception to that rule is for spouses of U.S. citizens.  As long as you entered the U.S. with inspection by a U.S. immigration officer, you can still file for a green card (adjust status) from within the U.S. even if you are currently here without lawful status.

I entered the U.S. without a visa and without inspection, by crossing the Mexican border.  Can my spouse sponsor me for a green card?

This is a complicated application, and you will need to consult with an immigration attorney. You cannot file for a green card from within the United States if you entered without inspection.  (There is an exception to this rule for people who had an immigration petition or labor certification filed on their behalf on or before April 30 2001.)   That means you will have to return to your home country to apply for a green card through consular processing.  However, when you leave the U.S. to apply, you will probably be prohibited from returning because of the three year/ten year bar on returning to the U.S. following the accrual of unlawful presence.

My spouse and I are legally married. I live in the United States but my spouse  currently lives abroad  because she had no way to get a green card here.  What do we do now?

The two of you can file a marriage-based green card application.  Since she is currently outside the United States, the application will be processed through the U.S. consulate in her country (consular processing), meaning that the U.S. consular staff will interview her there, rather than in the U.S.  If her application is approved and she enters the U.S., she should be able to do so as a lawful permanent resident.

Immigration Officers Respond Like God Answers Prayers: “YES,” “NO,” “WAIT”

You have been waiting for months for the “Big” day – your green card interview.  You are overwhelmed by all sorts of emotions – excitement, anxiety, fear – all piled into one.  You are praying to God that your nerves do not get the best of you.  The immigration officer asks you a barrage of questions about your marriage and jots down notes.  The immigration officer flips through your application maybe about ten times. In spite of your nerves, you thought your interview well.  So towards the end you were pretty sure your green card would be approved on the spot.  But he hands you a piece of paper that  said your file is being held for further review.


Notice of Interview Results: “Your case is being held for review. At this time, USCIS does not require any further information or documents from you. Should further information or documents be required, you will receive a notice in the mail.”


Say what?!!!!!

What does this mean? Was my green card approved or denied?

The immigration officer responds to green card applicants like God answers prayers: “yes,” “no,” and “wait”.  

A notice of interview results is  not at all unusual.The green card interview can end in one of three ways: (1) approved with a temporary I-551 stamped in your passport, (2) application denied, or (3) your application is held for review.

Number three is the most confusing and frightening experience for the green card applicants and their families. Once the interview is completed, the officer may review the case and at times, may also review it with his/her supervisor. What normally happens, depending on the officer’s workload, he/she still has some security or background checks to conduct. The immigration officer will update the system to generate the approval notice and the green card.  As a matter of policy, the immigration officer must give the applicant something and this notice of review is the routine to let the green card applicant know that their application is still pending.  If any information is missing, the applicant will be notified and be provided with time to submit it. If all documentation is complete and there are no issues, then the green card applicant will be notified and receive his/her green card in the mail.

that we would be notified by mail of the decision, and we should wait 60 days before inquiring about the case status. He didn’t say anything else. We weren’t asked for any further evidence and the box for ‘background checks’ was not checked on the letter. The box that was checked just said: ‘your file is being held for further review before a decision can be made’.

Bottom line: Probably nothing to worry about.


Myth or Truth: Are “Illegal Immigrants” taking American Jobs?

 Many Americans can’t take low paying jobs because they have to pay taxes. 

Are Americans competing with the “illegals” to pick produce, drive taxis and wash dishes? How exactly are they ruining the American way of life?

According to the Homeland Security statistics, over 14.4 million immigrants obtained lawful permanent residence in the United States in the past 10 years. There are many myths and truths about whether immigrants (lawful or unlawful) are causing harm to America’s economy.


Immigrants don’t pay taxes

Undocumented immigrants are already U.S. taxpayers. Collectively, they paid an estimated $10.6 billion to state and local taxes in 2010, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. The impact of undocumented immigrants on the budgets of local and state governments cited Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) figures showing that 50% to 75% of the about 11 million unauthorized U.S. immigrants file and pay income taxes each year.  Although undocumented immigrants cannot get a Social Security number (“SSN”), they can  file an income tax return by applying for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number ( or “ITIN”).  An ITIN is a tax processing number issued by the IRS for individuals who cannot get a SSN and are required to file income tax returns. ITINs are only used for tax reporting and serve no other purpose.


Immigrants come here to take welfare

Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and most other public benefits. Most of these programs require proof of legal immigration status and under the 1996 welfare law, even LEGAL immigrants cannot receive these benefits until they have been in the United States for more than five years.


Immigrants send all their money back to their home countries

In addition to the consumer spending of immigrant households, immigrants and their businesses contribute billions in tax revenue to U.S. federal, state, and local governments. While it is true immigrants send billions of dollars a year to their home countries, this is one of the most targeted and effective forms of direct foreign investments. This is a similar practice of wealth Americans who send their money off shore to foreign banks because their lenient taxes.


They take jobs and opportunity away from Americans

The largest wave of immigration to the U.S. since the early 1900s coincided with our lowest national unemployment rate and fastest economic growth. Immigrant entrepreneurs create jobs for U.S. and foreign workers, and foreign-born students allow many U.S. graduate programs to keep their doors open. The American economy needs immigrant workers. The belief that immigrants take jobs that can otherwise be filled by hard-working Americans has been disputed by an overwhelming number of economic research studies and data.

Removing the approximately 8 million unauthorized workers in the United States would not automatically create 8 million job openings for unemployed Americans.  For one, removing millions of undocumented workers from the economy would also remove millions of entrepreneurs, consumers and taxpayers. The economy would actually lose jobs. Second, native-born workers and immigrant workers tend to possess different skills that often complement one another.

Immigrants, regardless of status, fill the growing gap between expanding low-skilled jobs and the shrinking pool of native-born Americans who are willing to take such jobs. By facilitating the growth of such sectors as retail, agriculture, landscaping, restaurants, and hotels, low-skilled immigrants have enabled those sectors to expand, attract investment, and create middle-class jobs in management, design and engineering, bookkeeping, marketing and other areas that employ U.S. citizens.


Immigrants are a drain on the U.S. economy

During the 1990s, half of all new workers were foreign-born, filling gaps left by native-born workers in both the high- and low-skill ends of the spectrum. Immigrants fill jobs in key sectors, start their own businesses, and contribute to a thriving economy.  Most immigrants arrive in prime working age. That means we haven’t spent a penny on their education, yet they are transplanted into our workforce and will contribute billions toward our social security system over the next 20 years.


 Myth Busted!

Immigrants are not taking jobs away from Americans. They contribute to the American economy. Immigrants take low-skilled jobs that native-born Americans are unwilling to take.


Demonstrating good moral character is extremely important when a permanent resident makes the decision to become a citizen of the United States. Just because you are hold a green card does not mean you are eligible to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

A permanent resident must show the immigration that he or she has been:

  1. continuously residing in the US for 5 years after obtaining Permanent Resident Status ( or if the residency has been obtained through marriage to a US citizen, then three (3) years if he or she is married to and living with the U.S Citizen spouse) or one year after serving in the United States Armed Forces.
  2. physically present in the U.S. for not more than 6 continuous months, and
  3.  a person of good moral character.

What is Good Moral Character?

“Character which measures up to the standards of average citizens of the community in which the applicant resides.” USCIS Policy

A person is said be of Good moral character if the person does not have serious criminal issues in his or her past, and that the person generally fulfills his or her obligations under the law.  If you have ever been charged with and/or convicted of a crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT), your good moral character will be at issue. A crime involving fraud or dishonesty is usually considered to involve moral turpitude. Other crimes the law considers to involve moral turpitude are: arson, assault with intent to kill or inflict serious bodily harm, bigamy,  blackmail, bribery, bad check convictions; burglary, counterfeiting, larceny, murder, perjury, prostitution, rape, drug crimes, receiving stolen goods, robbery,and sexual offenses.

Crimes that usually do not involve moral turpitude include simple assault, drunkenness, disorderly conduct, gambling  and violations of government regulations.

You will be required to demonstrate good moral character for the five years before you file for naturalization and up until the time you are naturalized. If you became a legal permanent resident through marriage, you must prove three years of good moral character. If you are applying for naturalization through your service in the U.S. military, you must prove one year of good moral character.

Criminal record can affect ‘good moral character’ requirement for citizenship

So what does this mean?

When you submit your naturalization package, the immigration officer will look at the applicant’s conduct during the three-year period or five-year period prior to filing the application to see if the person meets the good moral character requirement.  Some of the things that the immigration officer will look at are:

  • The applicant’s record;
  • Statements provided in the naturalization application; and
  • Oral testimony provided during the interview.

It is important to know that questions about your good moral conduct can be asked about your actions before the relevant statutory periods. An immigration officer can consider earlier serious actions or affiliations that may raise doubts as to your good moral character. However, they cannot rely only on these previous actions or affiliations to deny your application for naturalization, and they must explain how these are related to your present behavior.

For example:  Natasha became a permanent resident on April 1, 2006 through a petition by her mother. After ringing in the new year at a New Year Eve party  with an Appletini, Natasha wished a friends a happy new year and took off in her car on the morning of January 1, 2007. She was subsequently stopped by Officer Mike and arrested for driving under the influence.  She pled nolo contendere and paid a fine. In April 2014, Natasha decided that she wants to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. Although the relevant statutory period is from 2009 to 2014. The immigration officer may consider that 2007 arrest even though it falls outside the five year statutory period.


What kind of evidence do you need to show that you are person of good moral character

If you are a person who may have your good moral character questioned, you may still naturalize if you are able to show that you have been rehabilitated. Character statements or character reference letters can be used to show rehabilitation. Good character evidence may come from your employer, neighbors or church. Evidence that you have been involved in the community, like volunteer work is also good evidence. Absence of a criminal record is good evidence of good moral character.


You Have The Burden

As an applicant for naturalization, you have the burden of proving your own good moral character. You should fully consider whether any of your past or present actions are questionable. This consideration will help you answer application questions and prepare for your interview. Remember to bring to your interview all documents and information that will help explain issues relating to your good moral character. If you believe that you may have difficulty proving good moral character, contact an attorney for legal advice.