Some people assume that after a naturalization application is approved, the non-citizen automatically becomes a citizen. In reality, committing a criminal act before the oath ceremony could have a bearing on whether or not you are allowed to be a citizen. If you were charged with a crime before you could complete the ceremony, here is what you need to know. 

Why Does a Charge Impact Your Approval?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, is responsible for ensuring that only people who meet the requirements for citizenship are approved. Even though you have received notice that your application for naturalization has been approved, you are not officially an American citizen until you take the naturalization oath. 

At any point leading up to the ceremony, the USCIS has the right to reassess your eligibility. Part of the process is conducting a criminal background search. Depending on the crime you are facing, your approval could be placed on hold pending the results of the criminal case. 

Which Charges Can Impact Your Citizenship?

Not all criminal charges will have an impact on whether or not you can proceed to the oath ceremony. The USCIS is usually concerned with felony crimes and certain misdemeanors, such as a family assault charge. 

Crimes that are more serious in nature, such as crimes related to illegal drugs, murder, prostitution, and fraud tend to affect naturalization approval. If discovered by the USCIS, you could not only have your naturalization approval rescinded, but you could potentially face deportation. 

What Can You Do?

One of the most important things you can do is to postpone the oath ceremony. Continuing through with the ceremony with the knowledge that you might not be eligible for citizenship anymore amounts to fraud in the eyes of the law. A fraud allegation could set your naturalization back considerably. Even if the USCIS has not discovered you have a criminal charge pending, you need to be honest. 

You should also consider consulting with criminal and immigration attorneys. The criminal attorney can help you explore your options for handling the charge. The immigration attorney can determine what type of impact the charge will have on your citizenship.

In the event you are convicted of committing a crime that bars you from becoming a U.S. citizen, you could face deportation. If you are barred or deemed inadmissible by the immigration court, a date for deportation will be scheduled. At that point, your attorney can file a petition with the court to allow you to remain in the country even with the charge. 

For more information, contact an immigration attorney at a firm like Fickey Martinez Law Firm, P.L.L.C.