Yes, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) conducts a background check for applicants and their sponsoring persons.
Let us get into details of how the USCIS performs a background check and what serious crimes bar applicants from getting a resident/citizenship status in the US.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) conducts a background check on petitioners and applicants before granting them lawful residency or citizenship in the US.
The USCIS ensures that no person with a criminal record is entitled to US resident status. Applicants must list any such incidents or history of a criminal record and any rehabilitation programs attended after that.
Applicants should honestly provide details about their criminal records and offenses in the past. Hiding facts from the USCIS will only complicate your case and may result in rejection.
Not all types of crimes or offenses make you inadmissible to the US. Therefore, consulting a professional or an attorney can help you improve your chances of success even if you have had any offenses in the past.
USCIS Background Check with FBI
The USCIS has arrangements with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This arrangement allows USCIS to conduct two background checks through the FBI and two through the DHS.
The USCIS receives fingerprints of all applicants at a local Application Support Center (ASC). The FBI manages this fingerprint system and scans them for identity checks.
The process is compulsory for applicants of all ages now. It includes fingerprints, photographs, and signatures.
FBI Name Check
The FBI maintains the National Name Check Program (NNCP), containing valuable personal information about citizens and residents.
The name check confirms that an applicant’s record file is transparent and that the applicant has had no severe offense in the past, barring a residency or citizenship status.
USCIS Background Check with DHS
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) conducts the other two background checks. These programs are similar to those conducted by the FBI but contain a more comprehensive data set in cooperation with several other government entities.
IDENT Fingerprint Check
IDENT is the official fingerprints data system maintained by DHS. It is conducted for all applicants of age 14 or above.
The biometric identification and verification steps are performed to match the applicant’s history against the system record.
TECS Name Check
The TECS name check is performed against a comprehensive data set organized by the DHS with the help of 26 government agencies, including the FBI.
This database contains records of people with criminal records, sexual offense records, drugs, murder, and terrorism charges, to name a few.
The only difference between the FBI and DHS background checks is the magnitude of the database against which the applicant’s record is examined.
The DHS maintained a comprehensive database with the help of several other government entities. However, the information-sharing mechanism is encrypted, and all entities follow privacy protocols.
Key Process When USCIS Performs Background Check
When the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) perform a background check, they evaluate the applicant’s eligibility for certain benefits or visas by examining their past history.
This includes determining whether an individual is eligible to become a U.S. citizen by checking if they have committed any crimes, fraudulently obtained benefits, or violated immigration laws in the past.
The USCIS process begins with a review of documents provided by the applicant that prove their identity and background information, such as birth certificates, passport records, military records, and other documents.
This review allows USCIS to verify the applicant’s identity and establish that they meet the basic requirements for citizenship or legal residency.
Once this documentation has been verified, USCIS performs an FBI-level name search to uncover any possible criminal convictions or other charges filed against the applicant.
The agency may also contact other government agencies (such as the Department of Homeland Security) for additional information about an applicant’s background.
In addition to searching for criminal history and other red flags, USCIS will also look into an applicant’s financial and employment history to determine whether they would be able to support themselves financially upon being granted a visa or citizenship status.
If everything looks good on paper, USCIS may then move on to conducting interviews with references that can speak positively on behalf of the applicant’s character and reputation within their community.
Questions asked during these interviews can range from personal questions such as marital status and family composition to inquiries regarding business dealings or previous jobs held by the applicant.
The amount of time it takes for USCIS to complete a background check varies depending on each case’s complexity and individual circumstances.
Generally, simple cases may take anywhere from four to six weeks to complete, while more complex cases can take several months or more. It is best to contact USCIS directly for specific timelines on a case-by-case basis.
Finally, once all relevant information is compiled and reviewed by USCIS officers, it’s time for a decision – either approval or denial of an application depending on how well the candidate meets all requirements set forth by law to receive either permanent residency status in the United States or full U.S. citizenship via naturalization process.
What Crimes Make US Petitioners Ineligible for Green Cards and Sponsoring?
Applicants for a US residency visa may not have a criminal record but face ineligibility because of their sponsoring spouse for a green card.
If your sponsoring spouse is involved in one of the following criminal categories, your green card or residency visa through a sponsorship program will be rejected.
Aggravated felonies are severe criminal offenses listed by the US congress and laws. These offenses include murder, sexual abuse of a minor, drug trafficking, money laundering, human trafficking, smuggling, and so on.
The list includes several types of offenses and misdemeanors. The applicant may not be involved in a violent offense but falls under this category.
If the applicant’s sponsor or spouse (offering green card sponsorship) is involved in any aggravated felony charges, the applicant will become inadmissible to the US.
Crimes of Moral Turpitude
The general definition of crimes of moral turpitude includes criminal offenses with evil intents, actions that are conducted with vile, depraved, or against the rules of moral norms in society.
The legal definition of the concept is adopted by the US justice system and is entirely subjective. The USCIS performs a background check on applicants for these moral crimes too.
Some examples of moral turpitude crimes include:
- Fraud and theft
- Spousal or child abuse
- Volunteer manslaughter
- Aggravated assault
- Animal fight
The green card application will be rejected if an applicant or the sponsoring person is involved in any of these crimes falling under this category.
Illegal Drug Involvement
Illegal drug involvement is another sensitive criminal offense that bars applicants from getting a green card in the US.
US law only allows the personal use of approved substances up to 30 grams. If a person is involved in drugs with more quantity in any way, it is considered a criminal offense.
However, if you or your sponsoring person has ever been convicted only for a minor drug dealing, you can apply for a waiver of inadmissibility and improve your chances of success.
Offenses Against a Minor – Family Visa Challenges
Another critical aspect of family visas, including a green card application, is the background check by the USCIS for an offense against a minor.
The Adam Wesh Act of 2006 protects children’s rights and barred applicants from a resident or citizenship status with such offenses.
The list of crimes falling under this category includes the following examples:
- An Offense Involving Kidnapping
- An Offense Involving False Imprisonment
- Solicitation To Engage In Sexual Conduct Or Practice Prostitution
- Use Of The Minor In A Sexual Performance
- Video Voyeurism, Possession, Production, Or Distribution Of Child Pornography
- A Criminal Sexual Conduct Against A Minor Through Internet Or An Attempt To Such Conduct.
- Any Sex Offense Against A Minor.
What is a Waiver of Inadmissibility?
Applicants for a US residency status or green card can apply for a waiver of inadmissibility. It is a request to the USCIS not to make a criminal offense or record of the applicant a barrier to obtaining legal immigrant status in the US.
As listed above, not all types of criminal records or offenses bar you from getting a US legal residency status, including a green card.
Therefore, if you had an offense falling outside the significant categories discussed above, you can apply for a waiver of inadmissibility.
You can file the waiver of inadmissibility through form I-601 through our attorney and provide sufficient supporting documents/proof to improve your case.
Do individuals have an opportunity and right to decline to provide information?
Applicants hold the right to deny or decline the request to provide information. Particularly about their criminal history or records.
However, doing so will result in rejecting their application for benefits, including a residency status or immigration case.
The information obtained by the USCIS, including fingerprints, photographs, and other valuable points, is critical in deciding the immigration case of the applicant.
Therefore, it is in the best interest of an applicant to cooperate and provide the complete information to the USCIS honestly.