I've been a permanent resident since 08/2001. In Oct 2011 I was arrested and convicted of shoplifting. I was charged a $350 fine and that's it. I'll be getting married in Oct 2012 and want to become a citizen ASAP. I read somewhere that first CMT conviction with max sentence of less then a year jail time does not bar the person from naturalization. Is that true? Or do I have to wait for three years after marriage before applying? And in the meantime, will this conviction affect my green card renewal, since I would have to get new card after my name changes?
It sounds like your conviction will qualify under the "petty offense exception" assuming it was a misdemeanor. If that is the case, it shouldn't affect the renewal of your green card. In my experience however, the Phoenix naturalization office will deny applicants with ANY criminal history during the good moral character period. This would mean that you should wait until 3 years from the date of your conviction (if you're marrying a USC) to apply for naturalization so that conviction will fall outside the Good Moral Character period.
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