Things to Consider for Former Asylees Seeking U.S. Citizenship

Feb 1, 2016 | Asylum

As a Miami immigration lawyer, I have helped numerous clients gain relief as asylees. I have also had the privilege of helping these asylees to become permanent residents. Naturally, many of them inquire about U.S. citizenship, which offers many additional benefits not accorded to permanent residents. However, many former asylees are not aware of risks when applying citizenship. Below are some things for former asylees to pay attention to when applying for U.S. citizenship:

Why are there risks to applying for citizenship as a former asylee?
But there are  risks to applying for citizenship, especially because it gives U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) a chance to review your entire immigration file and everything that has happened in your life since then. If you entered the United States as a refugee or asylee, you will, as a result, need to take certain precautions when filing your application for naturalization.  If you have any questions in regard to this, it may be a good idea to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.

What will the USCIS do with my application for citizenship?
a) The first thing that the USCIS will do is to double-check whether your asylum claim was bona fide. The agency may look very closely at the person’s naturalization application and history in the United States to make sure that it is consistent with the reasons he or she requested asylum.

The USCIS will to look very closely at the application and may deny it if the applicant cannot offer a strong explanation for the discrepancies.

My life has changed — thus the discrepancies in my aslyum claim and my application for naturalization. How do I address this?
The best way to explain such changes is for you and/or your Miami immigration lawyer to provide corroborating documentation. Do not wait for USCIS to request this documentation from you.  This will show USCIS that you are being completely honest.

b) The USCIS Will Examine Your Travel History
If you travel back to your home country after receiving asylum, USCIS may suspect that you did not actually fear persecution when you applied for asylum.  The USCIS will become especially suspicious if you travel back to your home country frequently. If this applies to you, think about why you traveled to your home country, and prepare to show USCIS why that travel did not undercut your initial asylum eligibility. Provide copies of any documentation that further proves your explanation. Again, you may want to discuss this with your Miami  immigration lawyer.

c) Be prepared for the USCIS to look for your name on the INTERPOL List of Criminals and Terrorists
Sometimes, an aslyee’s name may appear on the Interpol “wanted person” list. The person may appear on the list due to having committed a crime in the home country, may be on the list due to mistaken identity, or may appear on the list because of involvement in a terrorist organization, even without having known it was a terrorist organization at the time. If your name is on the list, even if it is a mistake, it could seriously impact your naturalization case. If this applies to you, you should certainly meet with a Miami immigration lawyer to discuss your options.

d) USCIS may check to see if you registered for Selective Service
Every male U.S. citizen or immigrant between the ages of 18 and 25 is required to register for the Selective Service – that is, fill out a form that provides their name and address in case the United States ever needs to rapidly expand the armed forces in an emergency. Unfortunately, many immigrants do not know about this requirement and fail to register. This failure to register can affect your chances of being approved for immigration purposes. If you have any questions in regard to this, you may want to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.

e) USCIS will look for inconsistencies between your application for asylum and your application for naturalization
If you make statements on your N-400 Application for Naturalization that are different from either the information you gave on their I-589 Application for Asylum or in your testimony when applying for asylum, you stand a good chance of having your application denied.

Some of the most common types of inconsistencies are:

  • failure to list all of the organizations and groups the person claimed to be a member of on the asylum application
  • claiming relatives on Form N-400 that the applicant did not claim on the asylum application, and
  • checking “No” on any of the questions involving criminal activity or arrests when the persecution in the asylum application involved arrests or criminal charges in the individual’s home country.

Certain inconsistencies could result in a bar to naturalization or cast doubt on the statements you made in your underlying asylum application.

If you would like more information on asylum applications, naturalization applications or the asylum process, please contact Miami immigration lawyer The Law Office of Tatiane M. Silva, P.A., Esq. at (305) 895-2500 or visit our website at tmsilvalaw.com.