When applying for citizenship using Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, it is important to always be honest with the USCIS. Trying to keep any information away from the immigration officers could lead to a denial of your application, according to the agency.
But do you have to report every single crime? What about traffic tickets where you weren’t arrested or charged? It’s in your best interests to report everything, even if you think it was minor. The reason is Section D of the N-400 form.
Understanding Section D on Form N-400
Section D is the part of Form N-400 about “good moral character,” one of the requirements to become a U.S. citizen. Your criminal record is a part of that evaluation, but it also includes things like your family life, how active you are in the community, holding employment, volunteer work, and similar activities.
Failing to report crimes is a strong mark against your moral character, even minor ones. You do not want an immigration officer to find out you didn’t report something. That said, some of the most minor crimes may not be worth their attention.
On the other hand, some crimes will deny your application outright, like an aggravated felony or one where you were imprisoned for over 180 days. An immigration lawyer may give advice that can help you if you have a serious criminal record and wish to immigrate.
Incidents You Must Report to USCIS on Form N-400
According to the USCIS, here are the crimes you must report when filing Form N-400:
- Arrests: You should report any arrests. This includes any incidents where you were NOT charged with a crime or NOT convicted of a crime.
- Convictions: If you were convicted of a crime, you need to report what happened to the USCIS, even if your record has been cleared or expunged.
- Crimes not reported: You should also report a crime you committed even if you were not arrested or convicted of any wrongdoing.
- Crimes outside of the country: If you have a criminal record outside of the U.S., this also needs to be reported on your application.
You should also submit any evidence that is in your favor concerning an arrest, conviction, or offenses. This evidence will be considered by the immigration officer before making a decision on your case.
Note that even if you weren’t convicted, the mere fact of your arrest could be a mark against your application. For instance, if the officer has reason to believe you’re a drunkard or a drug abuser because of an arrest for another crime, that may be a problem.
What About Minor Traffic Violations?
Yes, you should still report minor traffic violations. You may not have been “arrested or charged” for the minor ticket, but if you want to cover all your bases, consider reporting even the most minor of things. Since there may be a lack of documentation, get proof that you paid your fines and resolved the problem to show the officer.
You’ll be required to report most crimes to the USCIS unless you were involved in a specific type of traffic violation. The USCIS states that you do not need to report a traffic violation if it does not involve an arrest and the only consequence was a fine under $500 and/or points on your driver’s license.
However, it does not hurt to report them anyway. Even if the violation was minor, what you do about it can also reflect on your moral character. For example, if you had a parking ticket and never paid the fine, or you show a pattern of minor traffic violations, that’s a problem.
Understanding the Problems of Perjury in the United States
You can’t go back and say you “forgot” a crime after you’ve filed your form. You must tell the complete truth. If they come back and find something you didn’t report, you could be stripped of your U.S. citizenship because you perjure yourself.
Do not forget that, as part of your application, your fingerprints will be taken. These can be compared to criminal databases across the country to reveal any crimes not stated on Form N-400.
While not the level of perjury, even forgetting an arrest or claiming a different story will get you in trouble. Remember, the officer wants to verify everything. They have to be skeptical, and you don’t want to give them any reason to deny your application.