What is Naturalization?
Naturalization is a legislative procedure that allows a foreign national to apply for US citizenship after satisfying specified conditions. If granted, this provides the applicant a multitude of benefits including the ability to vote, petition for certain family members to immigrate to the US, and avoid the need to renew your permanent residency.
Though the application process is less complicated than immigrating to the U.S., there are several specific requirements that an applicant must meet in order to be eligible to apply and be approved. Here we discuss the requirement of “good moral character” and what it means for your application.
Why is Good Moral Character Important for Naturalization?
The USCIS guidelines state that “Good Moral Character” is defined as “behaviour that fulfils the expectations of ordinary residents of the society wherein the petitioner lives.”
Generally speaking, this means that you must demonstrate you are a good citizen.
It is important to remember that all naturalization candidates are subjected to rigorous character and criminal investigations by the USCIS, and any incident a candidate fails to declare is likely to be discovered.
Examples of Lack of Good Moral Character Demonstration
Below are some examples of what USCIS may deem to indicate poor moral character:
- An offense involving “fraud” or “malicious intent”.
- Any crime committed with the purpose of physical injury to another person.
- Two or more offenses with a total sentence of imprisonment of 5 years
- Controlled substance violations
- Lying to obtain immigration benefits
- Not paying your taxes
- Failure to pay child support
- Illegal gambling
- Habitual drunkenness
- Terrorist acts
- Persecution of someone due to national origin, religion, race, political, social group, or opinion.
- Falsely claiming citizenship
The Importance of Good Moral Character from the Start of Interview to the day of the Ceremony
Even though an adjudicator may recommend an applicant for approval after the interview and exam, the requirement for good moral character does not end there. Every behaviour demonstrating any lack of a Good Moral Character from the beginning of the interview to the time of the ceremony can results in the adjudicator’s decision being revoked, resulting in a denial of citizenship.
Why Should Applicants Be Careful while Filling the Naturalization Application?
It is critical that candidates completely and honestly fill out the naturalization forms. Giving inaccurate statements or failing to submit required information may be considered activities that hinder a positive moral conduct assessment.
The USCIS may refuse or deny a naturalization application based on such findings. Candidates must disclose all relevant details about any offenses, even those which may have been closed or expunged from their history or that occurred when there were minors.
In some cases, temporary bars may be applied to restrict a candidate from becoming a citizen for a set length of time (typically five years) following the date the violation was committed.
Why Should You Hire an Immigration Attorney?
Moral character is often not a black and white concept when it comes to determining your eligibility to file for immigration benefits. Contact an immigration attorney with experience in filing naturalization applications to help you determine if you meet the requirements for proving good moral character.