What is ‘Good Moral Character’?
As part of the naturalization process, applicants must prove through interviews and records that they are of ‘good moral character.’ In most cases, this is examined through criminal history in the five years preceding the application process, although earlier may be considered depending on whether your past and present conduct is representative of reformation.
What Helps My Case?
Good moral character can be proven in multiple ways whether you have a criminal record or not. These can include awards/scholarships, volunteering or community service, military service/awards, property ownership, participation in religious organizations, and more.
You can also provide letters of support from people you have worked with and landlords or obtain an official background check from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This mostly works in favor of those who have no criminal history.
What Negatively Affects My Case?
One of the biggest hindrances in your case is criminal history, even if outside of the “statutory period” of five years. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer examining your case is required to look at a set list of criteria when classifying reformation for incidents outside of this period, including:
- Family background
- Whether or not you have other criminal history;
- Education and employment history;
- Community involvement;
- Compliance with probation; and
- How long you've been in the United States
However, certain factors in your history may indicate that there are conditional or permanent bars on your application. These bars can negatively affect your ability to establish good moral character.
Permanent and Conditional Bars
There are four main categories for permanent bars, and these mean that you cannot establish good moral character at any point in the future. These categories are:
- Aggravated Felony
- Persecution, Genocide, Torture, or Severe Violations of Religious Freedom
- Particularly Severe Violations of Religious Freedom
You can learn more about what all these entail here.
In contrast, conditional bars may or may not prohibit you from establishing good moral character in the future. More than a dozen categories fall under conditional bars, including incarceration for 180 days, controlled substance violation, and adultery. You can view the complete list here. It’s important to note that conditional bars are often examined on a case-by-case basis.
How An Immigration Attorney Can Help
If you are concerned about where you stand in terms of moral character when going through the naturalization process, it can be beneficial to work with an experienced immigration attorney who understands what they are looking for.
Maney | Gordon | Zeller, P.A. is an experienced, nationwide team of immigration lawyers working to ‘bring the best to America.’ If you need assistance when going through this process, we are here to help. Schedule a consultation by calling today!