USCIS Updates Policy Guidance on Naturalization Eligibility and Voter Registration Through a State’s Benefit Application Process

USCIS updated policy guidance in its Policy Manual regarding naturalization applicants’ registration to vote through a state’s DMV or other state benefit application process, and the effects it can have on an applicant’s good moral character requirements. The update is effective immediately. Comments are due June 28, 2021.

Policy Highlights

  • Clarifies that USCIS will not penalize an applicant who unknowingly or unwilfully registers to vote.
  • Clarifies that USCIS does not consider an applicant to have unlawfully registered to vote if the applicant did not complete or sign the voter registration section (including electronic signature, if applicable) in the motor vehicle or other state benefit application.
  • Clarifies that USCIS does not consider an applicant to have unlawfully claimed to be a U.S. citizen if the applicant did not affirmatively indicate that he or she is a U.S. citizen. However, if the applicant registered to vote, the applicant has the burden to prove that the registration form did not contain a question about whether the applicant is a U.S. citizen or that the applicant did not indicate, in response to the question, that he or she is a U.S. citizen.
  • Clarifies that an applicant may be considered to have falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen for the purpose of registering to vote, and therefore may lack GMC because he or she committed an unlawful act in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1015(f), if the applicant knowingly answered “yes” to a question asking whether he or she was a U.S. citizen in order to register to vote. This may apply even if the applicant’s registration to vote was done simultaneously with the process of a driver’s license or ID card application, or an application for other state benefits.

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Cite as AILA Doc. No. 21052731.

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