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USCIS Further Expands Guidance on Good Moral Character Requirement

By December 13, 2019March 16th, 2021Family Immigration, Immigration
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One of the requirements for naturalization be become an U.S. citizen or other immigration benefits is good moral character (GMC). An applicant for naturalization must show that he or she has been, and continues to be, a person of good moral character. In general, the applicant must show GMC during the five-year period immediately preceding his or her application for naturalization and up to the time of the Oath of Allegiance. Conduct prior to the five-year period may also impact whether the applicant meets the requirement.

On December 10, USCIS issued a separate policy memorandum regarding multiple DUI convictions and its impact on the good moral character requirement for naturalization. For more information, please click here.

Previous USCIS Policy Manuals did not include extensive information on which unlawful acts are considered to be CMT. On December 13, 2019, USCIS issued a new policy memorandum that has provided examples of unlawful acts to ensure USCIS adjudicators can make uniform and fair determinations, and further identifies the unlawful acts that may affect GMC based on judicial precedent.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), an applicant for naturalization must establish GMC. Although the INA does not directly define GMC, it does describe certain acts that bar establishing GMC of an applicant. Examples of unlawful acts recognized by case law as barring GMC include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • bail jumping;
  • bank fraud;
  • conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance;
  • failure to claim U.S. citizenship;
  • falsification of records;
  • forgery uttering;
  • insurance fraud;
  • obstruction of justice;
  • sexual assault;
  • Social Security fraud;
  • unlawful harassment;
  • unlawful registration to vote;
  • unlawful voting; and
  • violation of a U.S. embargo.

The acts that are listed above are just examples of unlawful acts that may be considered. USCIS officers adjudicate applications on a case-by-case basis to determine whether an unlawful act can adversely reflect on an applicant’s good moral character. This is a complicated issue as different states have different laws that vary as to how they classy and assign sentencing to crimes. If you believe you have committed an act that can impact your good moral character, please contact a qualified immigration lawyer immediately to discuss your options.

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