Q. I have a Masters Degree in Information Technology. Can I apply for U.S. citizenship while I work here under international student F-1 practical training rules?
Kashif Mohammed, Chicago
A. Unfortunately, the law does not provide an easy path from international student to U.S. citizenship. Start by trying to get an employer to sponsor you for H-1B status. You qualify if a company or individual needs a worker with your undergraduate or graduate education.
Because of a limit on how many workers can get H-1B status, you may not get one even if you qualify. If you manage to get H-1B status, good typically for at least six years in three-year intervals, an employer may sponsor you for an employment-based green card if no qualified U.S. worker is immediately available to do your job. After a number of years in green card status, you can apply to become a U.S. citizen.
Q. Will my Driving Under the Influence conviction keep me from getting U.S. citizenship? I am a permanent resident. My DUI arrest was in March 2013. The matter was discharged in June 2014 after I did all the court asked me to do.
Hesham El Defrawy, Chicago
A. You should get your U.S. citizenship despite your DUI conviction. Be sure to answer “yes” to questions about arrests on your form N-400, Application for Naturalization and bring your arrest and conviction records to your naturalization interview. Simple drunk driving DUI convictions (called Driving While Intoxicated, DWI in some states) do not permanently bar naturalization. In any event, your arrest was more than five years ago; immigration should not hold it against you.
Naturalization applicants must prove five years of good moral character, three years for those applying under the special rules for the spouse of a U.S. citizen. A DUI conviction may show a lack of the good moral character required to naturalize. Since your arrest was more than five years ago, it shouldn’t be a problem. Naturalization applicants with DUI convictions during the five- or three-year period may sometimes get citizenship if they can show rehabilitation.