Can Citizenship Be Denied if I Have a Green Card?

December 15, 2020

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) revised their Policy Manual on November 18, with a new clarification that could disqualify certain applicants from naturalization. This means that immigrants with lawful permanent resident (LPR) status could be ineligible to gain citizenship. The USCIS has claimed that some green card holders may have gotten their LPR status by circumventing the law in error, by fraud, or otherwise not in compliance with the law.

Immigrants who complied with immigration laws, such as maintaining U.S. residence without interruption for at least five years, could now face risk. This new policy targets residents who were admitted into the country if not done lawfully, or if the USCIS did not know about certain factors that could disqualify the resident when they were admitted into the U.S.

How Does the Policy Work?

The new policy has updated USCIS policies already in place; citizenship applicants who violated the terms of their green card or visa status were already at risk for deportation. The USCIS reviews applicants who apply for citizenship, and those who apply have the burden of proving that they obtained and maintained their LPR status lawfully. If the USCIS denies a naturalization application that is filed on or after November 18, the applicant may face an arrest warrant and be required to attend removal proceedings. This could happen if the applicant obtained a green card in a fraudulent manner.

The USCIS also considers whether the applicant abandoned their LPR status during the naturalization application process. The policy dictates that applications can be denied when applicants are already in removal proceedings that started out with arrest warrants.

Will I Be Deported?

There are many reasons why applicants and green card holders can be deported in addition to this new policy. If an applicant does something illegal in or out of the country, this could disqualify them. For example, if the applicant tried to smuggle drugs into the U.S. and was caught, they could be disqualified and deported. The USCIS will also deny citizenship if an applicant spent little time in the U.S. during the time period that the applicant abandoned their U.S. residency.

What is the Difference Between Deportation and Inadmissibility?

It is not uncommon for immigrants who have green cards to be denied readmission to the U.S. after they have been out of the country. For example, if an immigrant spent 180 days or more overseas and was thought to have abandoned their residency, or if the person developed some kind of communicable disease, they could be denied admission upon reaching the U.S. border.

When green card holders travel outside the country and return, they may be questioned at the border by U.S. officials. The traveler’s records can also be checked, and if any of the above circumstances are discovered, they could be found inadmissible. Other reasons for denial include not having the appropriate vaccinations, having criminal convictions, being a drug abuser or drug trafficker, or being dependent on government assistance.

Other Grounds for Deportation

The USCIS has a long list of grounds for citizenship denial and deportation that green card holders should be aware of, some which include smuggling undocumented immigrants into the country and being convicted of serious crimes and felonies. Drug crimes and marriage fraud are other category of deportable offenses. The USCIS specifies that immigrants who were wed less than two years before obtaining green cards, then end the marriage could be accused of fraud. Unless the immigrant can prove otherwise, he or she could be at risk.

Additionally, if the immigrant used to be a drug abuser or an addict after being admitted into the U.S., or is convicted of illegally dealing firearms, destructive devices, or other weapons, they could be deported. Other reasons include violating travel and documentation restrictions, being convicted of espionage, domestic violence, or child abuse; breaking local, state, and federal laws; and engaging in terroristic activity, among others.

Can I Still Be a Permanent Resident if Citizenship is Denied?

Yes, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes if an applicant fails the U.S. history, government, or English exams, they can go back to how they were living their lives. They may be entitled to retesting when this happens. Also, if the applicant does not pass their first interview, a second interview may be scheduled. When applicants are not able to prove that they were continuously residing in the U.S. for the required number of years, they may be sent home and given an opportunity to apply again in the future.

What Happens if I am Deportable?

Receiving this determination by immigration authorities can be frightening and stressful, but the actual deportation will not happen immediately. It may also be possible to obtain a waiver in some cases. In general, immigrants are entitled to defend themselves in immigration court. However, the laws can be difficult to comprehend, so anyone who finds themselves in these situations could benefit from advice provided by an experienced citizenship lawyer.

Philadelphia Citizenship Lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC Protect Immigrant Rights

If you or a family member is struggling with immigration status, do not hesitate to contact the Philadelphia citizenship lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC. For a free consultation, call us at 215-496-0690 or complete our online form. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.