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How Does Immigration Define Good Moral Character? - Katrina S. Zafiro

How Does Immigration Define Good Moral Character?

In order for an immigrant to be naturalized and become a citizen of the United States, he or she must be found to have “good moral character” (sometimes referred to as GMC). Since one’s moral character is an extremely subjective quality, and there’s no way for it to be scientifically measured, this can lead to a lot of questions. Today, we’re looking at the ins and outs of how immigration defines good moral character. 

First, let’s take a look at a few of the things that immigration considers permanent bars from ever being considered to have good moral character:

  • Murder
  • Rape 
  • Explosive material or firearms offenses
  • Child pornography offenses
  • Sexual abuse of a minor
  • Prostitution offenses (including trafficking, managing, and transporting)
  • Document fraud
  • Tax evasion
  • Obstruction of justice
  • And other “aggravated felony” charges

You can also be permanently barred for involvement in genocide, and any participation in particularly severe violations of religious freedom while serving as a foreign government official at any time.

Less “serious” crimes can also prevent you from meeting the good moral character requirement if they are committed during or conviction or imprisonment for them occurs during the statutory period for naturalization. The statutory period is generally three years for applicants married to a U.S. citizen and five years for permanent residents of the United States.

Minor crimes are less likely to be held against you if they were committed outside the statutory period, but they are still considered factors. You may be able to demonstrate through your present conduct that you have undergone a reformation of character. Other factors that USCIS will consider are family ties and background, education history, employment history, whether or not you’ve met financial obligations like paying debts and taxes, community involvement, length of time in the United States, and whether or not you complied any time you may have been on probation.

Ultimately, beyond the definite permanent bars, how any given USCIS officer will interpret your good moral character can be a grey area. If you have questions about good moral character for naturalization or need help with the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, the Zafiro Law team is here to help. We encourage you to contact us today!

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Zafiro Law

As an attorney, I am passionate about helping my clients achieve peace of mind in navigating the complex areas of family law and immigration law. Your case will get my full and dedicated attention—whether you are seeking to navigate the complexities of your family law matter or overcome the challenges of your immigration law case.

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