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What Happens During the USCIS Background Check?

A USCIS background check can be a stressful time for any applicant. You want to ensure you have filled out the proper forms and provided the necessary documents for the application. Working with an attorney can help you through this complex process. Here’s what you need to know about a USCIS background check.

What Does USCIS Look for in Background Checks?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will conduct a background check for many reasons. The USCIS must ensure that only an eligible applicant is allowed to receive immigration benefits. The USCIS wants to ensure they do not permit someone in the United States who may be a risk to the country or the community. For that reason, the USCIS will take several steps to check the background of an application, including criminal records.

Not every criminal conviction is an automatic denial of your green card or other immigration benefit request. Under U.S. law, three types of “inadmissible” criminal convictions exist. They include:

  • Aggravated felonies
  • Illegal drug involvement
  • Crimes involving moral turpitude

There are several steps to the background check process. The first steps track your information from the port of entry through a centralized information system. This investigation ensures that you are not a threat to public safety or national security. Depending on the data, the background check will ensure no criminal records in your background. You may have to provide detailed information about finances and residency status in your home country.

After the background check stage, most applicants will be required to attend a biometrics appointment. With that, the USCIS offices take the fingerprints and photos of the applicants. Once again, the information is entered to check the applicant’s criminal past. After that, the FBI may also conduct a background check. The data is entered into the National Name Check Program, which searches the name for any criminal records in different law enforcement agencies.

How Long Does a Background Check for USCIS Take?

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Processing a background check for the USCIS can take several weeks to months. Much of the information has to be verified from various sources. In some cases, there could be delays, especially with incorrect or unfilled details on the application. With that, you may have to spend additional time waiting to pass the background check. In those situations, you will want to have an experienced immigration lawyer on your side to help with the process. 

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What Disqualifies You from Sponsoring an Immigrant?

When sponsoring someone from another country, you are responsible for that person’s expenses. If the individual does not have work authorization, you must provide them shelter and food. While you may think you are responsible for a short time, the United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) website states that immigration sponsorship lasts until they have become a U.S. citizen or lived in the country for ten years. By filling out Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, you will need to show that you can provide for the individual. If you cannot financially support an immigrant, you could be disqualified from sponsoring them. 

However, that is not the only issue that could disqualify you from sponsoring an immigrant. The parents, spouses, and children will all need a sponsor if they are family-based green card applicants. You must be a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen to sponsor these applicants. 

Your past criminal record may also play a part in denying a sponsorship. The USCIS has complete discretion on whether you can sponsor an immigrant. Under the current law, any criminal conviction involving a minor will disqualify you from sponsoring an immigrant. Other disqualifying convictions are listed in Section 204 of the Immigration Nationality Act

What If My Background Check Shows Something Negative?

In some cases, there could be a negative mark on your background check. You can request a waiver of inadmissibility for certain criminal convictions. Remember, you cannot get a waiver for all criminal convictions, such as most drug convictions, torture, or murder.

Applicants must file Form I-601, the official waiver of inadmissibility form. On the waiver, you need to prove that your U.S. citizen or green card holder parent or spouse will suffer extreme hardship if you can’t work or live in the United States. You will also need to show that you have changed your behavior so that you are not considered a threat to anyone in the United States. While that form might seem easy, it can be complicated without the proper assistance and supporting documentation about you, and why deserve a favorable exercise of discretion. 

For those who need a waiver of inadmissibility, apply for it simultaneously with the green card. You can file Form I-601 with your green card application document or ask for it at the green card interview. However, if you are applying for your green card from abroad, you can only apply for the waiver after an immigration officer determines you need it at your consular immigrant visa interview.

Does USCIS Check Your Work History?

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The USCIS will check an applicant’s work history. With that, you will need to provide certain information for each employer—whether you have worked abroad or in the United States for the past five years. You will need to list the employers’ names, addresses, your position, and start and end dates. During the USCIS background check, the FBI will work to ensure that all of your information is correct. You never want to put down false information on your application. 

On the application, you need to be honest about your employment history, even if there are gaps in your work history. If you cannot remember the exact dates, give an approximate estimate. You can always explain your employment history during the interview process. Many people don’t maintain a perfect employment history. With that in mind, it is essential to clearly explain why gaps may have occurred at certain stages of your life. 

Always make sure that your employment history aligns with your address history. If these histories do not match, it could delay your application. You can also explain your situation on the form or with an addendum. 

Talk To an Immigration Attorney Today

As you can tell, the USCIS background check and green card process are incredibly complex. It can be hard to understand the special waivers and forms you need to get approval for your application. Plus, not everyone has the same situation, and you may have other circumstances that need extra attention on the application. For that reason, you will want to talk to a lawyer at Abogada Ashley Immigration, Inc. We can help prepare your case so that your USCIS background check goes as smoothly as possible, and we assist with applying for waivers and other parts of the petitioning process. 

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