Three Reasons You Should Run a Background Check Before Applying for a Green Card

13 July 2017
 Categories: , Blog

When you work with an attorney on obtaining your green card, one of the first things he or she may recommend is to run a criminal background check on yourself. Although the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) only requires applicants to submit criminal records if they've have been convicted of a crime, here are three reasons you should follow your attorney's advice and get a background check.

To Verify You Weren't Convicted of a Crime

You may not remember ever being convicted of a crime, but that doesn't necessarily mean you don't have a criminal conviction, warrant, or other problematic issue on your record. It may seem unlikely that you wouldn't be aware of something as serious as being convicted of a crime or having a warrant out for your arrest, but this can happen in a couple of ways.

For instance, you may have been called into court for a seemingly minor thing. However, you never actually went to jail because the lawyer in your case had a "conversation" with the prosecuting attorney. In this situation, the defense lawyer may have plea bargained for a lesser charge in your case. Although you may not have suffered any consequences, that plea bargain will still appear on your background report as a conviction.

Another way you can end up with a record is if you were pulled over for a traffic violation and never took care of the tickets you received. Many people don't realize this but the ticket you receive from the police is an actual court summons. You have a choice to either pay the ticket—after which, the court case will be dismissed—or show up to court on the appointed day to defend against the ticket. If you don't pay the fine or appear in court, the judge in the case may issue a bench warrant for your arrest.

Since police generally don't actively go after people with warrants for minor crimes, you likely won't know there's a warrant out for your arrest until you interact with police again.

A background check will uncover these issues, and you and your attorney can figure out a way to minimize the impact the convictions or warrants have on your application for a green card.

To Correct Any Mistakes

The other reason you want to run a background check on yourself is to correct any errors on your record. Despite people's best efforts, mistakes do occur in the court system. Incorrect information is entered into a file, and sometimes one person's records get mixed up with another's.

Regardless of whether you've been convicted of a crime or not, it's a good idea to check your record for errors and get them corrected before you submit your application for a green card. Not only can this prevent your application from being denied because of erroneous information, but you'll avoid suffering additional legal problems that may result from those errors (e.g. arrested for someone else's warrant).

To Avoid Looking Like a Liar

The third reason to run a background check is to avoid looking like a liar. You may be certain that you don't have a criminal record and submit your application without checking first. You show up to the personal interview with the USCIS agent and the agent pulls up information showing you have a conviction for a crime. It will look like you purposefully lied on your application—even if you didn't mean to—and your application for a green card may be denied.

Running a background check can save you and your attorney from this type of embarrassment. At minimum, it can help prevent you from committing perjury on official government forms and avoid the associated consequences.

For more information about this issue or help with an application for a green card, check out sites like and contact an immigration attorney.