What is the Definition of “Good Moral Character” in Immigration Law?

What is the Definition of “Good Moral Character” in Immigration Law?

To qualify for citizenship in the United States, an immigrant must meet several different requirements. In addition to general eligibility requirements such as permanent residency and age, naturalization applicants must demonstrate “good moral character.” It can be difficult to understand what exactly “good moral character” means and how it applies to your immigration case.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines “good moral character” as “character which measures up to the standards of average citizens of the community in which the applicant resides.” This definition is almost as vague as the term itself, and may create more questions for you.

What Does USCIS Use to Evaluate “Good Moral Character”?

It is difficult to get an exact explanation of the “good moral character” requirement. Generally, if you have a clean criminal history and have not been involved with any other unsavory activities, you will be in good standing.

To determine if an immigrant is an example of “good moral character,” USCIS looks to different sources. Mainly, they examine an applicant's history, such as their criminal record. They also evaluate statements made in the immigrant application and interview.

Criminal Record

An applicant’s criminal record is one of the main sources that USCIS refers to when evaluating character. Although the definition of “good moral character” is vague, a clean criminal record is a significant indicator.

Violent offenses are almost always an immediate indicator that an applicant does not meet the USCIS definition of “good moral character.” Applicants with such offenses on their record will likely have their applications denied.

Additionally, "crimes of moral turpitude" can be a mark on one's good moral character. These are defined as depraved crimes done recklessly or with evil intent. These crimes run contrary to morality and duty in society.

Crimes of mortal turpitude can include:

  • Participation in animal fighting
  • Spousal or child abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Murder and voluntary manslaughter
  • Kidnapping

Other criminal offenses that often indicate a lack of “good moral character” and prompt an application denial include:

  • Money laundering
  • Drug trafficking
  • Firearms offenses
  • Passport fraud
  • Tax evasion
  • Repeated convictions of driving under the influence
  • False claims to US citizenship

Immigrant Application and Interview

USCIS also looks to an immigrant’s application for anything that could signify a lack of “good moral character.” The naturalization application process includes a written application and interviews. During these steps in naturalization, immigration officials identify any statements that could be perceived as a lack of “good moral character." Officials will evaluate if the application should be denied based on those statements.

Of course, this can still be subjective. Generally, statements that indicate an applicant’s proclivity towards violence, addiction, or dishonesty signify an absence of “good moral character."

At Kanu & Associates, P.C., our legal team is available to assist with your immigration case. We understand that applying for naturalization, visas, and other immigration matters can be confusing. For answers to your questions and representation in your case, contact us today.

To schedule a consultation with our attorneys, complete our contact form or call (602) 353-7795.

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