Good Moral Character

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One of the requirements for U.S. naturalization is to be of "Good Moral Character". An applicant for naturalization must demonstrate he or she has been a person of good moral character during the five-year period (or three-year period for marriage based green cards) and that he or she will continue to be of good moral character until citizenship is granted.

What is considered lack of good moral character?

As it pertains to US immigration, good moral character is more strict than the average standard of society. Some minor violations of the law or even activities allowed by state law but not federal law can still disqualify applicants from being a person of good moral character.

While the USCIS determines whether an applicant has met the good moral character requirement on a case-by-case basis, according to USCIS, the following establish bars to good moral character.

Permanent Bars to Good Moral Character

1. Been convicted of murder

2. Been convicted of an "aggravated felony" which includes:

  • Murder, rape, or sexual abuse of a minor
  • Illicit trafficking in controlled substances
  • Illicit trafficking in firearms, destructive devices, and explosive materials offenses
  • Money laundering offenses
  • Explosive materials and firearms offenses
  • Theft offense
  • Demand for or receipt of ransom
  • Child pornography offense
  • Racketeering, Gambling
  • Prostitution offenses
  • Gathering or transmitting classified information
  • Fraud or deceit offenses or tax evasion
  • Alien smuggling
  • Illegal entry or reentry by removed aggravated felon
  • Passport, document fraud
  • Failure to appear to court
  • Attempt or conspiracy to commit an aggravated felony

3. Failure to provide any evidence or documentation to support a claim that the applicant is not involved in

  • Nazi persecutions
  • Genocide
  • Torture or extrajudicial killings
  • Particularly severe violations of religious freedom

Conditional Bars to Good Moral Character

Involving in the following activities in statutory period will affect an applicant's ability to establish good moral character.

  • Crimes against a person, property or government.
  • Has been convicted of two or more offenses for which the combined, imposed sentence was five years or more
  • Controlled substance violations, including use of marijuana which is legal at the state level (As of May 2019)
  • Imprisonment for 180 days or more
  • False testimony in immigration process
  • Prostitution
  • Practice polygamy
  • Use gambling as main source of income
  • Habitual drunkard
  • Failure to support dependent
  • Has an extramarital affair that tended to destroy an existing marriage
  • Unlawful voting and false claim to U.S. citizen for voting
  • Failure to file tax returns or pay taxes