Memphis immigration lawyer Ari Sauer provides news and information on US immigration law.
I was imprisoned in my home country for protesting against the dictorial regime. When I applied for asylum, I answered ‘yes’ on the question asking if I had ever been arrested.
But when I applied for my green card I answered ‘no’ to the question of whether I had ever been arrested for breaking or violating a law because the arrest itself was illegal.
Now I am applying for U.S. citizenship. Do I have to answer ‘yes’ to the question of whether I have been arrested? Will it be a problem that my answers on my asylum application and green card application were different?
With the naturalization application, it is always best to err on the side of being too honest, as the easiest way for a USCIS officer to deny an application is to show that the applicant was not truthful in the application. A denial on this basis will mean that the applicant will have to wait another 5 years (3 years if you are applying as the spouse of a U.S. citizen) before being able to file again.
If you have ever been arrested, detained, ticketed, or given a citation for any reason you should check yes in answer to the question on the N-400. This is true even if it was an unlawful arrest or detention, if it happened in a different country, if the charges were dismissed, if no charges were ever brought, or if the arrest records were expunged. You can include an explanation of the arrest on the application and you will be given a chance to explain the arrest at the interview.
In this situation you should also answer yes to the question about whether you ever gave false or misleading information when applying for an immigration benefit. This is because you did not mention the arrest on the green card application. As I said, it is best to err on the side of being overly honest on the naturalization application. Again you can include an explanation in the application and will be able to explain at the interview.