Whether you’re applying for a green card or you’re already a permanent U.S. resident seeking citizenship, you’re required to reveal any arrests – even if you were not charged or convicted.
Clearly, a conviction could weigh heavily against your favor – but is a mere arrest enough to cause an issue? Since the rule of law in this country is “innocent until proven guilty,” do you even have to mention the arrest if nothing came from it? Here’s what you need to know:
Honesty is the best policy
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can be trusted to do a very deep background check on any applicant for a green card or citizenship – and that includes looking for any interaction with law enforcement both in the United States and abroad.
That makes it particularly important to be honest on your application, no matter what the circumstances. Even if the charges against you have yet to be decided, were in another country or your record was expunged, you don’t want to give immigration authorities any reason to doubt the veracity of your whole application.
In fact, any misrepresentation on your green card or citizenship application can be enough to make you inadmissible under U.S. immigration law – but not all arrests or convictions have the same effect. That means that you could end up torpedoing your application by trying to hide what happened, even if the arrest itself was insignificant.
In short: Disclose everything, even if you’re not sure you have to do so. If you have any documentation that shows how the arrest was resolved (paperwork showing that the case was dropped or expunged or settled in some other fashion), make sure you have it ready – and be ready to answer more probing questions about the situation that led to your arrest.
The immigration process is fraught with pitfalls that can make it frightening to proceed alone. That’s why experienced legal guidance is best when you’re trying to change your immigration status.