As a Miami immigration lawyer, I have represented many people who came to the U.S. as asylees and then became permanent residents. Eventually, some of these clients have wanted to adjust their status to pursue U.S. citizenship. However, you should be aware that there are also risks to applying for citizenship. Below are some frequently asked questions:

Why is it sometimes a risk for asylees or refugees to apply for U.S. citizenship?

It provides the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) with a chance to review your entire immigration file. This includes everything that has happened in your life since then. You may have to take certain precautions when filing your application for naturalization. I would certainly recommend speaking with a Miami immigration lawyer about these risks.

Ask yourself – was your asylum claim bona fide (real)?

The USCIS will be looking very closely at your naturalization application and history in the United States to make sure that it is consistent with the reasons leading to your request for asylum. They are specifically looking for your underlying asylum claim to be “bona fide”, or real.

For example, if your asylum claim was based upon fear of persecution in your home country because of your sexual orientation, and you subsequently enter into a heterosexual marriage, this may raise some red flags for the USCIS.

You and your Miami immigration lawyer will need to address any kinds of inconsistencies like these, because these are the red flags that may well to a denial of your citizenship application.

Ask yourself – do you have a history of frequent travel back to your former home country?

Again, the key is consistency. If you are living in the U.S. as an asylee, but have a well-established record of frequently traveling back to your home country, the USCIS will view this as a red flag – you obviously did not have a “well-founded fear of persecution” because you kept traveling back to your home country. As such, you and your Miami immigration lawyer should discuss, and prepare for the USCIS to question you on this issue. Again, you will need supporting documentation for the USCIS to review.

Ask yourself – did you register for Selective Service?

Did you know that every male U.S. citizen or immigrant between the ages of 18 and 25 is required to register for the Selective Service? The Selective Service is a form tha provides your name and address in case the United States ever needs to rapidly expand the armed forces in an emergency. Many immigrants do not know about this requirement and fail to register, which may affect your application for naturalization. If you have any questions about this requirement, you should speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.

Ask yourself – do you have inconsistencies between your Naturalization Application and your Asylum Application?

If you have statements on your naturalization application that are different from either the information you gave on your I-589 Application for Asylum or in your testimony when applying for asylum, the USCIS will have a good reason to deny your application. If this applies to you, I encourage you to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer to address these issues before the USCIS issues an unfavorable result.

If you would like more information on addressing the risks of applying for U.S. Citizenship as an asylee or refugee, please contact Miami immigration lawyer Michael G. Murray, Esq. at (305) 895-2500 or visit our website at

Coronavirus update: We are safely open for business! USCIS is still accepting new filings for all applications. Our office is offering virtual consultations for new clients so that you don't have to come to our office in person. Call us to schedule your virtual meeting today.
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