To become a naturalized citizen of the U.S., the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) mandates that you meet a number of qualifications. One of these requirements is that you to demonstrate good moral character.

What Is Good Moral Character?

There is no clear definition of good moral character for the purpose of an immigration proceeding. Good moral character has been interpreted to mean that your behavior meets the moral standard of the average citizen in your community. Therefore, customs and expectations relating to good moral character differ according to area.

What Are Examples of Poor Moral Character?

There are various factors that will affect a determination of your moral character. Some actions that may be considered include:

  • Refusing to pay court-ordered child support;
  • Failing to file or to pay income taxes;
  • Neglecting to register for Selective Service (if you are required to do so);
  • Lying to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to attain immigration benefits (such as becoming a permanent resident by marriage and then being immediately divorced);
  • Driving drunk or habitual drunkenness;
  • Engaging in illegal gambling as a means of earning primary income; and
  • Committing adultery.

What If I Lacked Good Moral Character in the Past?

An immigration officer has the authority to examine your entire life and to closely scrutinize the five years preceding your naturalization application. Past actions relating to your current behavior may be discussed, although they cannot be the basis for the denial of your application.

What If I Have Been Convicted of a Crime, but the Record Has Been Expunged?

All arrests, convictions, and crimes should be disclosed. Therefore, even an expunged record must be reported. Failure to inform an immigration officer of your involvement in any crime could lead to the denial of your application. Honestly is essential to the naturalization process.

What Can I Do If My Application Is Denied Based on My Moral Character?

If your application is denied, you will receive a letter explaining the reason(s) and containing information about appealing the decision. You may file an appeal and request a hearing with an immigration officer if you feel that you were unfairly denied naturalization. In some cases, you may also reapply.

Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer?

An immigration lawyer can help you to prepare for the naturalization process and to become familiar with the questions that may be asked regarding good moral character. Additionally, an attorney can work with you to complete your application or appeal.