What Does Good Moral Character Mean for Immigrants?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced via a news release on December 13 that it is expanding existing guidance on the “unlawful acts” that can block an immigrant’s path to citizenship because they do not have good moral character:
“An act is unlawful if it violates a criminal or civil law of the jurisdiction where it was committed. The regulation addressing “unlawful acts” does not require the applicant to have been charged with or convicted of the offense.
The “unlawful acts” and behaviors that define a lack of good moral character are not clearly defined by USCIS. Immigration officers evaluate good moral character “on a case-by-case basis and provides guidance on that case-by-case analysis.”
What Is Good Moral Character?
Good moral character is a requirement for citizenship and is considered by immigration officers for a green card and other immigration applications. USCIS assumes that anyone under the age of 14 has good moral character. For anyone 14 years of age and over, good moral character is a non-negotiable requirement. Any crimes that are considered inadmissible under the Immigration and Nationality Act and that may make a person deportable could be considered as something that would cause a person considered not to have good moral character.
Established examples of a lack of good moral character are:
• Lying during the naturalization interview
• Drunk driving
• Illegal gambling
• Lying to get immigration benefits
• Marijuana use and convictions even in legalized states
USCIS’ new policy guidance provides 15 new examples of “unlawful acts” that adversely reflect on moral character for naturalization purposes:
▪ Bail jumping
▪ Bank fraud
▪ Conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance
▪ Failure to file or pay taxes
▪ False claim to U.S. citizenship
▪ Falsification of records
▪ Forgery uttering
▪ Insurance fraud
▪ Obstruction of justice
▪ Sexual assault
▪ Social Security fraud
▪ Unlawful harassment
▪ Unlawful registration to vote
▪ Unlawful voting
▪ Violation of a U.S. embargo
The attorneys at Chicago’s Godoy Law Office fight for the rights of immigrants in Illinois and help immigrants navigate the complex and numerous immigration policies, procedures, and regulations. If you need help with an immigration issue, please contact our office at 855-554-6369.