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What Does it Mean to Have ‘Good Moral Character’ in the Eyes of the USCIS?

| Nov 20, 2020 | Immigration Law

We know you’re an honest, hard-working individual. Your friends and family know how great you are. Unfortunately, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) needs some substantial proof before they allow you to become the upstanding citizen everyone knows you will (eventually) be. If you’re aiming to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you must show this to immigration officials by proving you have “good moral character.” We’ll go over what, exactly, that means, as well as how you can prove it.

‘Good Moral Character’ Defined

Part F, Chapter 1 of the The USCIS Policy Manual defines good moral character as “character which measures up to the standards of average citizens of the community in which the applicant resides.” More specifically, this means that you have to convince immigration officials that you have not committed any crimes that would otherwise disqualify you from being naturalized. Such crimes include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Conviction of murder
  • Aggravated felony conviction
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Prostitution
  • Theft or shoplifting
  • Crimes of moral turpitude
  • Crimes that forced you to spend 180 days or more in jail

The crimes of murder and aggravated felonies are permanent bars to naturalization. Most other crimes, though, apply to the statutorily defined period prior to naturalization (3-5 years, depending on how you obtained your Residency). You must continue your good moral character up until you take the Oath of Allegiance.

That isn’t to say that your life prior to the three- or five-year statutory period doesn’t matter. Immigration officials very well may look at your conduct. If, say, they discover you committed a serious crime prior to the statutory period, all’s not lost—you can use that statutory period to show you have reformed.

How Can You Show Good Moral Character?

If you’ve ever had to procure a letter of recommendation from a family friend, mentor, or past employer, you should go back to that source and see if they would be willing to vouch for your good moral character in front of the USCIS. In addition to the crimes we discussed above, possible bars to good moral character include failing to support any of your dependents and failure to pay your taxes. Good moral character does not mean moral perfection with the help of a qualified immigration attorney your application for naturalization will have the best chance of success.

Rotella & Hernandez Has Your Back

The concept of “good moral character” comes into play in a few different ways within the U.S. immigration system, most commonly with naturalization as explained in this blog. Proving your good moral character can be challenging, yet it is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to fulfilling your immigration goals. Rotella & Hernandez handles the entirety of our clients’ immigration cases, and we have a high rate of success due to the personalized attention we give each case.

We look forward to speaking with you; give our firm a call today at 305-596-3618 to schedule a consultation.