Good Moral Character for Naturalization

What Is Good Moral Character


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy manual for adjudicators defines Good Moral Character as “character which measures up to the standards of average citizens of the community where the applicant resides.”

Simply put, it means proving that you are an upstanding member of society. Practically speaking, demonstrating good moral character is not always so simple, even if you are a good person. Many automatic bars in the Immigration and Nationality Act can disqualify an individual from demonstrating good moral character.

All applicants must fill out their applications for naturalization entirely and truthfully. Providing false or misleading information or failing to provide requested data can be viewed as actions that prevent finding a good moral character. Such a finding can result in the USCIS denying a naturalization application.

Applicants must provide complete information about any criminal convictions, including those that may have been sealed or expunged from their records or occurred while they were minors. The USCIS conducts extensive background and criminal checks on all naturalization applicants and is likely to discover anything an applicant failed to report.

You would not be able to demonstrate good moral character if you have been convicted of murder at any time or of any other aggravated felony if you were convicted on or after November 29, 1990.

Other less serious criminal offenses (crimes involving moral turpitude) may only be temporary bars to naturalization. Temporary bars prevent an applicant from qualifying for citizenship for a certain period (usually five years) after the commission of the offense.


Examples of Crimes That Might Demonstrate Lack of Good Moral Chacter

The following are examples of behaviors that might demonstrate a lack of good moral character:

  • Any crime against property or the government involving “fraud” or evil intent.
  • Any crime against a person with the intent to harm.
  • Two or more offenses for which the aggregate sentence was five years or more.
  • Violating any controlled substance law of the United States, any State, or any foreign country.
  • Habitual drunkenness.
  • Gambling offenses.
  • Prostitution.
  • Polygamy (marriage to more than one person at the same time).
  • False testimony to gain an immigration benefit.
  • Failing to pay court-ordered child support or alimony payments.
  • Confinement in jail, prison, or similar institution for which the total confinement was 180 days or more during the past five years (or three years if you are applying based on your marriage to a United States citizen).
  • Failing to complete any probation, parole, or suspended sentence before you apply for naturalization.
  • Terrorist acts.
  • Persecution of anyone because of race, religion, national origin, political, opinion, or social group.


Good Moral Character After the Interview and Before the Ceremony


Be aware that the permanent resident is not out of the woods completely if the adjudicator has approved their application at the interview. You are not a Naturalized Citizen until AFTER you have been sworn in at a ceremony.

Any act that demonstrates a lack of GMC during the period between the interview and the ceremony may result in the revocation of the adjudicator’s decision, and your naturalization may be denied.

You will receive a notice in the mail from USCIS with your ceremony date and time. It is important to keep this appointment, as you will be required to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and receive your Certificate of Naturalization at this time.

If you cannot attend the ceremony on the date and time specified in your notice, you must return the notice to your local USCIS office with an explanation of why you cannot attend. You will be rescheduled for another ceremony.

At the ceremony, you will take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. After you take the Oath, the Certificate of Naturalization will be mailed to you.

It is important to keep your Certificate of Naturalization in a safe place because it is proof of your U.S. citizenship. You will need to show it to apply for a passport, government benefits, or a job that requires proof of U.S. citizenship.

Contact an Immigration Lawyer for an Attorney-Client Relationship

Good moral character is very fact and case-specific. If the USCIS finds that you lack good moral character, you will be placed into removal proceedings and will have to defend yourself against deportation.

To prove good moral character, you must consult with an immigration law firm experienced in naturalization.

Austin immigration attorney, Michael Murray, has extensive naturalization experience, and based on his two years working as a criminal defense attorney at the Public Defender’s Office in Miami, Florida, Mr. Murray is capable of providing effective strategy in mitigating or explaining any behaviors that may affect the good moral character analysis.

An Austin immigration lawyer – Abogados de Inmigracion en Austin, TX – can help you determine if you meet the good moral character requirement for naturalization. Learn more by contacting Michael G. Murray, P.A today!

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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