In order to become a US Citizen, a Lawful Permanent Resident will, under most circumstances, have to apply on the N-400 Form to become one through the naturalization process. The form can be deceptively simple, and sometimes, important issues may be overlooked or ignored by an applicant.
Applying With A Criminal Record
This is not to say that individuals who have criminal arrests or convictions can never become citizens. However, one should not rush to file an application for naturalization without at least consulting a qualified immigration attorney to evaluate the immigration consequences of a criminal arrest or conviction. Even arrests that might not have resulted in a conviction will have to be explained at an interview. More importantly, convictions may have a devastating impact: your application may not only be denied, but your case may be referred to the Immigration Court for removal proceedings. Obviously, if this is potentially the case, you would not want to be applying for citizenship.
Not Disclosing Criminal Records
As a corollary to the above, some individuals make the mistake of not disclosing a criminal arrest or conviction. Big mistake. Even if something has been expunged, you would need to furnish the details. Even if your conviction was for a misdemeanor or petty offense, it still most likely falls within the ambit of the question requesting details of any arrest or accusation of criminal wrongdoing. The reason why USCIS processes your fingerprints is to identify whether you have ever been arrested or convicted of any criminal offenses. How do you think your interview will go when you have checked off "no" to the question regarding whether you have ever been arrested or charged, and the USCIS interviewing officer has information that you have?
Failing To Understand The Significance Of Long Trips Abroad
There are physical presence and continuous residence requirements that must be satisfied in order to become a US Citizen. There is a reason why USCIS asks you to denote any trip of 180 days or more within the past five years. Any long trips for 180 days or more raise the issue of whether you have disrupted your residence here. You may be asked to furnish proof that you have maintained your domicile here during that trip or trips abroad. If you cannot persuade the officer that you have, your application for citizenship may be denied even if you have passed the English and civics portions of the examination.
Applying Too Early
Under most circumstances, an individual who has had his/her green card for five years may apply three months early before the fifth anniversary of the grant of permanent residence. An individual who has been married as a lawful permanent resident for three years to a US Citizen spouse who has been a citizen for at least those three years may apply after three years of permanent residence. However, these are only the general rules. For example, if you taken many long trips outside the US within the past five years, or in the second scenario, if you haven't been living with your US citizen spouse for three years, it may not be such a good idea to apply early.
Applying When You Shouldn't
Some individuals just should not be applying for citizenship. There are, for example, individuals who are lawful permanent residents who may have acquired their legal status by fraud or mistake. After USCIS naturalizes an individual, it is extremely difficult to denaturalize that person, so you can be sure that the immigration officer will be reviewing the applicant's entire immigration history to ensure that he/she acquired permanent residency lawfully. If the applicant did not, he/she may be jeopardy of being placed into removal proceedings.