Good moral character: An important requirement for citizenship in Georgia

Good Moral Character. Citizenship is undoubtedly one of the most significant achievements for immigrants who travel to the United States and hope to make it home. The process is not easy. The application or naturalization process is particular and someone unforgiving on mistakes or missteps. For instance, did you know that your application can be denied if you miss just one meeting or even a single requirement?

A requirement that has thrown many applicants for a loop is the good moral character requirement. While the term may sound subjective, there is actually a set of conditions it represents. The Trump administration has even added new requirements and characterization conditions in recent years. Demonstrating good moral character has been a necessary condition for applying for residence in the United States for some time but in recent years, the condition has become more challenging to meet. So if you or a loved one has aspirations of establishing citizenship in this country, please continue reading for a detailed overview of how good moral character is defined for immigration purposes. 

How is good moral character determined?

The main question that many people ask when they are introduced to the good moral character requirement is: How can good moral character be demonstrated in a way that satisfies the requirement.  Overall, good moral character as defined by immigration standards, means that a person does not have serious criminal problems in his or her past and, in general, complies with their legal obligations. According to the USCIS Policy Manual, good moral character for naturalization fines is defined as:

“The character that meets the criteria of the average citizen of the community in which the applicant resides”

Therefore, if you are a permanent resident citizen of the United States and intend to apply for citizenship, you will need to demonstrate good moral character the entire time you were a permanent resident citizen for the five years prior to applying.

The first step people can take is to begin to collect evidence that demonstrates that they have displayed good moral character during the time they have been living in the United States. Gathering records for taxes paid while in the US, for instance, is a simple step you can take. Beyond that, you will need to consult with a  skilled Atlanta immigration lawyer that is able to specifically explain, on a case by case basis, what sort of  proof is necessary to demonstrate that an applicant has good moral character in a way that supports their naturalization or residency process.

Generally, an applicant must show that he or she has been a person of good moral character for the statutory period

Experienced immigration attorneys, like the immigration legal team at Diaz and Gaeta Law will tell you that your character will be evaluated by individual interviewers who will use the evidence you provide to question you. If you have committed a crime in the United States, however slight, while you were a legal permanent resident, your application will likely be rejected. However, if you consult an experienced Atlanta immigration attorney beforehand, there are tactics they can employ to help you address these issues beforehand, so you don’t waste time and money, or get deported instead.

While the requirements for good moral character can appear stringent there is a human element at play that a skilled attorney can leverage in favor of applicants.  Immigration Service (USCIS) officials that are tasked with evaluating, interviewing and screening applicants do have a level of discretion in their decision making. Each case is different and unique and each USCIS official that evaluates whether or not a person has good moral character, can add a unique spin to the process.

The greatest obstacles to demonstrating good moral character

In many cases, establishing good moral character is simple and minor imperfections or details can either be addressed or explained away by an experienced attorney and a USCIS official with a favorable disposition. But there are situations that present major challenges that are extremely challenging and may even be impossible to resolve. For example, having committed certain types of crimes, could be a major barrier in your naturalization process and even the friendliest interviewer could deny your application. Depending on the severity of the crimes, you can experience delays in your application process or get  you denied completely.

Having two DUIs, two minor offenses, can cause USCIS to deny your application based on failure to meet the Good Moral Character requirement.

It is important to consult with an Atlanta immigration attorney to evaluate your plan to demonstrate good moral character before submitting your application. In this way, you will rest assured that you are submitting a strong application. Your past will be investigated thoroughly, including your criminal history more. If your history includes any of the following, you should definitely consult with an attorney.

Crimes that can work against demonstrating good moral character and that you should take into account to avoid issues with your naturalization process are:

  • Crimes against other people with intent to cause them harm
  • False testimony with the intention of obtaining immigration benefits
  • Two or more DUI / DWI offenses
  • Gambling crimes or illegal gambling, robbery or prostitution
  • Defaults such as alimony
  • Smuggling foreigners into the United States
  • Two or more of the crimes for which he spent 5 or more years in prison
  • Spending more than 180 days in jail

Crimes like these are likely to call into question your good moral character if you are an immigrant. They can get your application for citizenship denied or worse, cause you to be put into a deportation process.

Each person can have a limited number of opportunities to ask for relief from deportation proceedings or permission to remain in the United States, without being deported. Good moral character is an important requirement for obtaining immigration benefits. 

At Díaz & Gaeta Law, we are  serious, responsible and committed to the Hispanic community. We have defended and won immigration cases, car accidents, DUI cases, criminal cases and no-license cases in counts throughout Atlanta.

As Latino lawyers we are bilingual and can help you in whatever language is most comfortable for you. Do not hesitate to call us, we are always committed to fighting for your rights.


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