U.S. Law Center

For noncitizens, voting is often a big mistake

The United States seems to have more polarization than ever before. Because politics often take center stage in nightly newscasts and local cafes alike, you may want to make your voice heard. If you are not a U.S. citizen, though, voting in a federal, state and many local elections may be a big mistake. 

To be eligible to vote in the United States, you must be a U.S. citizen. If you are a legal permanent resident, you have many of the same rights and responsibilities as citizens. Voting, though, is not one of them. If you have nonimmigrant status or no status at all, you also cannot vote in U.S. elections. 

Illegal voting may harm your citizenship prospects 

As mentioned, noncitizens are not eligible to vote in federal, state and most local elections. Doing so is a crime. Further, voting without legal authorization may damage your citizenship prospects. On the naturalization application, federal authorities ask whether you have ever voted. If you have, they may deny your application. They may also institute removal proceedings against you. 

Registering to vote is also problematic 

You do not have to cast a ballot to land in legal jeopardy. On the contrary, simply registering to vote may harm your immigration status. That is, immigration officials may argue that registering to vote constitutes a false claim of U.S. citizenship. Claiming you are a U.S. citizen when you are not often has immigration consequences. 

Making your voice count 

The United States is a republic, with citizens electing representatives to advocate on their behalf. If you want to make your voice count, you may want to apply for citizenship before the next election. Remember, though, you may not vote until you have received your naturalization certificate. 

Anyone living in the United States has many reasons to want to vote in federal, state and local elections. Still, if you are not a U.S. citizen, voting may have serious consequences. If you have already registered to vote or voted in an election without being a U.S. citizen, you likely want to learn more about both your legal exposure and your options.

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