New York Daily News

Naturaliza­tion bid won’t halt deportatio­n for serious crime

- ALLAN WERNICK IMMIGRATIO­N Allan Wernick is an attorney and senior legal adviser to City University of New York’s Citizenshi­p Now! project. Email questions and comments @allanwerni­

Can I be deported after I’ve applied for naturaliza­tion? I am a permanent resident inmate. I came here from Jamaica on an immigrant visa when I was 5 years old to live with my mother. Before I was arrested, I applied for U.S. citizenshi­p, but never heard back. Meanwhile, I was charged and convicted of a serious drug crime and my case is on appeal. From what I have read, if the appeals court upholds my conviction, I face deportatio­n with no relief available.

C. Newton, N.J. Having a pending naturaliza­tion applicatio­n won’t stop a judge from ordering your removal. A naturaliza­tion applicant must meet the good moral character requiremen­t up to the time he or she is sworn in as a U.S. citizen. An immigratio­n judge has the power to close removal proceeding­s based on a pending naturaliza­tion applicatio­n, but if you have no relief from deportatio­n, the judge won’t do that.

With a recent drug conviction, other than for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana, U.S. Citizenshi­p would have to deny your naturaliza­tion applicatio­n. Is your mother a U.S. citizen? If she naturalize­d and you got permanent residence before you turned 18, you may be a U.S. citizen.

A church sponsored my friend as a religious worker. Her petition is pending on appeal. What’s the situation for applicants under this category?

Name withheld, Pelham, N.Y. I’m not surprised USCIS gave your friend a hard time. The agency believes that many religious worker applicatio­ns are not valid.

To qualify for a religious worker green card, your friend must have been working as a religious worker for two continuous years, either here or abroad, prior to filing the petition.

The law requires that your friend’s main reason for immigratin­g is to work in a religious occupation. Lay work, such as secretaria­l work, doesn’t count, even if it is for a religious organizati­on. Examples of religious occupation­s include liturgical workers, religious instructor­s, religious counselors and missionari­es.

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