Here are some of the grounds on which the naturalization application can be denied:
1. You have to wait the necessary time. If your naturalization application is based upon marriage to a US citizen, you can file after being a green card holder for three years. However, during that time you have to be able to prove that you "continuously resided" with your spouse. If your naturalization application is not based on marriage to a US citizen, but because you obtained a green card through some other means, then you must wait five years before applying for naturalization.
2. Your naturalization application can be denied if you don't satisfy certain physical presence requirements here in the United States during the waiting period. There are three of them. First, if your naturalization application is based on being a green card holder for five years, you have to have been physically present in the United States for 30 months. If your naturalization application is based upon being a green card. Second, any presence overseas for greater than six months will break your "continuous residence" and could result in denial of your application. Third, you have to show that you have resided for at least three months immediately preceding the filing of the naturalization application in the USCIS district or state where he you claim to have residency. There are exceptions to these requirements but these are the basic rules.
3. During the five or three year statutory you have to show "good moral character" or "GMC". Some of the actions that can result in a denial of naturalization include a male's failure to register for selective service (the military draft registration system) if he was in the United States at any time prior to reaching age 26 in anything other than "valid nonimmigrant status." You have to demonstrate that you paid taxes during this period and do not owe any federal income taxes.
4. Finally, you cannot have a serious record of noncompliance with the law such as the commission of certain crimes, multiple DWIs in some cases, and other acts that might reflect unfavorably on one's character, including marital infidelity resulting in the breakup of another marriage.
If a person thinks that they might have a "GMC" problem he or she should always consult with immigration counsel before filing. This is especially so if the prospective applicant has a criminal record, because certain convictions can be so serious that they will result not only in denial of naturalization but also loss of one's permanent resident status! In other words, you might have to fight to stay in the United States in Immigration Court! The same is true with an honest disclosure of one's past establishes that the applicant should never have gotten a green card to begin with.
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