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A U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident client came to us with a series of very old criminal convictions in Virginia when he was a young man. He had been convicted of four crimes in Virginia that had an impact on his immigration case. The client has two misdemeanor shoplifting convictions (Va. Code Sec. 18.2-103, concealing merchandise) and Va. Code Sec. 18.2-96 (petty theft), as well as a brandishing a firearm conviction under Va. Code Sec. 18.2-282 and grand larceny under Va. Code Sec. 18.2-95 (for which the client was sentenced to 60 days in jail). Although these convictions had occurred a long time ago (more than 10 years), the client was understandably worried about his ability to become a U.S. Citizen.
To become a U.S. Citizen, an applicant must demonstrate that he/she possesses “good moral character” (GMC) for the required period of time (usually 5 years, but sometimes 3 years). Although USCIS is generally restricted to the 3 or 5 year period before applying, an applicant’s conduct outside the GMC period may also impact whether he or she meets the GMC requirement.

Certain offenses constitute “permanent” bars to establishing GMC, including a conviction for a so-called “aggravated felony”:

Other crimes are bars to GMC only if committed during the 3 or five year period:


In this case, Mr. Miller determined that because these crimes were not aggravated felonies and did not occur during the statutory period, this client qualified to become a U.S. Citizen. A client must be very careful not to file naturalization before enough time has passed.  U.S. Immigration calculates the 3 or five year period from the time the application is filed – not the time of the interview or final decision.

Here, the client was granted citizenship and was able to become a U.S. Citizen in time for the 2016 election.

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