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.” As this term is vague, 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.

It is difficult to get an exact explanation of what it means to have “good moral character.” Generally, if you have a clean criminal history and have not been involved with any other unsavory activities, you will be in good standing in this aspect of your immigration case.

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

To determine if an immigrant is an example of “good moral character,” USCIS looks to different sources that describe an applicant’s history.

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. Any 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. Other criminal offenses that often indicate a lack of “good moral character” and prompt an application denial include but are not limited to money laundering, drug trafficking, firearms offenses, passport fraud, and tax evasion.

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” and evaluate if the application should be denied based on those statements. Of course, this can still be subjective, but generally statements that indicate an applicant’s proclivity towards violence, addiction, or dishonesty signify an absence of “good moral character” to the authorities.

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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