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What is good moral character?

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2024 | Immigration Law

Good moral character is a fundamental requirement for immigration into the United States. It’s used in determining eligibility for certain benefits, such as naturalization, adjustment of status and some types of visas.

Demonstrating good moral character means an individual’s history reflects traits and behaviors aligning with a community’s moral standards. Typically, there’s a five-year period preceding the application during which good moral character must be shown.

Factors affecting good moral character determination

Several factors can negatively impact the determination of good moral character. These include criminal convictions, lying to obtain immigration benefits, failure to pay child support and habitual drunkenness.

Some offenses, such as murder or aggravated felony convictions, permanently bar an individual from establishing good moral character. Other offenses may only affect the determination if they occurred within the statutory period for which good moral character must be proven.

Immigration authorities consider legal violations and an individual’s adherence to moral norms and obligations. This includes participating in community service, paying taxes and supporting dependents.

Good moral character assessment isn’t limited to criminal activity or legal issues. It encompasses an individual’s overall character and actions as they relate to the moral expectations of society.

Steps to demonstrate good moral character

Applicants can demonstrate good moral character in several ways. Providing evidence of a clean criminal record, testimonials from community members or leaders and records of participation in community or volunteer activities can all support an individual’s case. Compliance with all U.S. laws, including tax laws and child support obligations, is essential for proving good moral character.

When an applicant has a past incident that may negatively impact their assessment, disclosing these incidents upfront and providing context or evidence of rehabilitation can be beneficial. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) considers all the circumstances surrounding an individual’s life when deciding.

The immigration process can be very complicated for anyone who has blemishes on their record. Seeking legal assistance throughout the application process may be beneficial so an applicant can learn how to present their side of the matter in a way that may boost their chances for a successful application.