handcuffs and fingerprints

Defining “Good Moral Character” for Naturalization

Although immigration law typically involves complex procedures and legal hurdles, many aspects of the naturalization process are fairly straightforward. Some requirements are clear-cut, such as passing the English and Civics Tests or living in the U.S. for a certain amount of time.

Part F of citizenship and naturalization, however, requires you to prove your good moral character. This is more subjective than any other aspect of the application process. According to USCIS, this assessment is designed to ensure you meet the standards of “average citizens in your community.”

While the period of evaluation is usually the five years prior to the application date, immigration officers sometimes assess older information if they believe it is relevant to your case. They will gather evidence from your records, statements you provided in your application, and what you say during your interview.

This evidence will likely include:

  • Family ties and background
  • Community involvement
  • Criminal history (or lack thereof)
  • Credibility
  • Length of time in the U.S.
  • Education and employment (past and present)
  • Financial history (e.g. paying or evading taxes)
  • Relationships with law enforcement/probationary officers

One common misconception about good moral character is that it means you have no criminal record. While a clean record will certainly help your case, some unacceptable conduct has nothing to do with a conviction or arrest. You will need to cite additional factors or activities that demonstrate good moral character.

What Demonstrates a Lack of Good Moral Character?

Some criminal convictions are serious enough to automatically bar you from citizenship. They may even trigger a removal proceeding.

USCIS can conclude you lack good moral character if they find evidence from the statutory period (the past 3-5 years) of:

  • A criminal conviction involving moral turpitude (i.e. violating the accepted standard of a community)
  • A criminal conviction of two or more offenses, resulting in a sentence of five or more years
  • A violation of a law related to controlled substances in any state or country
  • Your admittance of committing any of the above crimes, even if you were not arrested or charged
  • 180 or more days of time held in a penal institution
  • False testimony you gave under oath to obtain an immigration benefit
  • Involvement in prostitution
  • Smuggling one or more person(s) into the U.S.
  • Polygamy
  • Illegal gambling
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Purposeful failure to support dependents
  • Adultery that destroys an existing marriage

If you were convicted of an aggravated felony or murder at any point, USCIS will conclude that you lack good moral character.

While these bars to citizenship have some exceptions, they are complex and depend greatly upon your unique circumstances. It may be difficult to determine whether you are eligible for citizenship, but, with the right preparation and support, you can find the right path to achieving your immigration goals.

Let Us Raise Your Odds of Success

At Gambacorta Law, we are dedicated to helping immigrants turn their dreams into reality. We have years of experience navigating the complicated and ever-changing realm of immigration law, and we want to put our skills to work for you and your loved ones. If you are unsure whether naturalization is possible for you, we will be more than happy to closely evaluate your situation, answer all your questions, and recommend the most appropriate way forward.

Get started on your case by booking your initial consultation or give us a call at (847) 443-9303 today.