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USCIS expands guidance regarding good moral character requirement for naturalization applicants

Posted December 20, 2019Articles

USCIS has expanded its guidance regarding unlawful acts that may prevent an applicant for naturalization from meeting the good moral character requirement. The good moral character standard was unclear as to what type of  unlawful activity would prevent an applicant from meeting this standard. USCIS considers an act unlawful if it violates criminal or civil law. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, an applicant for naturalization must establish that they have been and continue to be people of good moral character during the statutory period before filing for naturalization and up until they take the Oath of Allegiance . USCIS officers will continue to perform case-by-case analysis to determine whether an act is unlawful and adversely reflects on an applicant’s good moral character. There are extenuating circumstances that can overcome the good moral character standard, but it must pertain to the unlawful act and must precede or be contemporaneous with the commission of the unlawful act.  

The list below are USCIS examples of unlawful acts that bar good moral character:

  • bail jumping;
  • bank fraud;
  • conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance;
  • failure to file or pay taxes;
  • false claim to 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

In addition to the unlawful acts listed above, USCIS has updated the policy guidance on how two or more driving under the influence (DUI) convictions could also affect good moral character determination. If you have any concerns or questions about your ability to naturalize, please contact Meltzer Hellrung for assistance.