People who want to become U.S. citizens through naturalization have to meet many requirements, and the application process can be complicated. The challenges increase considerably for someone who owes child support, because failure to support can be a conditional bar to citizenship. However, if you take the right steps to address the issue, it might still be possible for you to apply for naturalization if you have failed to meet child support obligations.
Know What to Look for on the Naturalization Application
When unpaid child support is a concern, you need to take care when answering Question 30(H) in Part 12 of Form N-400 (the naturalization application). This question asks, “Have you ever failed to support your dependents or to pay alimony?”
This question covers not only court ordered child support, but also amounts a parent might owe as part of their natural responsibility. Immigration law considers parents to have a “moral and legal obligation” to provide support to their minor children, even if the court has not explicitly ordered them to do so.
Applicants should be aware that their obligations extend beyond minor children living in the U.S. If you have children living in another country, your immigration officer will also consider whether you have provided appropriate support for them.
How to Handle Failure to Support Issues
“Failure to support dependents” is one of the reasons immigration officers may determine that an applicant lacks the good moral character needed to become a citizen. Someone may be accused of failure to support if they desert a child or fail to pay sufficient support. However, an exception can be made if the person expected to provide support can demonstrate that extenuating circumstances prevented them from fulfilling obligations. An experienced immigration attorney could help an applicant establish why failure to support should not negatively affect their application for citizenship.
If you have not paid child support, the N-400 application requires you to submit a detailed explanation showing good reasons why you were unable to provide support. When you can provide an explanation that does not reflect poorly on your ability to provide as a parent, you may still be able to move forward with your application for citizenship.
Factors That Affect The Outcome When Unpaid Child Support is an Issue
When a person has not paid child support, an immigration officer will consider the explanation from the N-400 Form in light of several factors. These should include:
- Unemployment or financial inability to pay (and the cause)
- An honest mistake in believing the child support term had ended
- Miscalculation of child support debts
- Evidence of the applicant’s good faith effort to provide for their dependents
If you are able to prove that you were unable to pay or that you made a good faith effort to provide for your dependents, you have a better chance of getting your application approved. To show that you are working to fulfill your obligations, you should resolve any past-due past child support payments and make current payments owed at the time of filing and during the naturalization process.
Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney Today
If you have concerns about how a child support debt may affect your naturalization application, contact a knowledgeable immigration attorney at The Law Offices of Robert Bell, P.A. We are happy to answer your questions and ready to work to help you obtain U.S. citizenship. You can contact us at (954) 241-4209.