WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE GOOD MORAL CHARACTER?

Updated: May 15



One of the requirements for Naturalization and VAWA-based petitions is that the applicant be a person of good moral character (GMC). Good moral character is not legally defined but generally means maintaining conduct that measures up to the moral standards of society or law abiding.


Applicants must show that they have been a person of good moral character during the 5-year period (or 3 years if filing based on marriage to a U.S. citizen) before submitting their application and up to the time their application is approved. For applicants applying for Naturalization, this includes the period of time between the interview and examination and when the Oath of Allegiance is taken.


While it is only required the applicant prove GMC during that 5-year period (or 3 years if filing based on marriage to a U.S. citizen spouse), the USCIS officer has the discretion to take into consideration the applicant’s conduct at any time before that period if they deem it relevant to determining GMC.


Many things are taken into consideration that would indicate a lack of good moral character, including, but not limited to:

· Being convicted of murder (ever) or an aggravated felony (after November 1990)

· Committing a crime involving moral turpitude

· Violating controlled substance laws of the U.S. or any other country

· Committing fraud to obtain an immigration benefit

· Practicing polygamy

· Earning income from illegal gambling

· Failing or refusing to support dependent children

· Failure to pay taxes


One important document in proving GMC is a Police Clearance Letter stating the applicant has no criminal history in a specific location. Applicants should obtain a Police Clearance Letter from anywhere they have lived for more than 6 months during the 5-year GMC period. Examples of other GMC documents include:


· Certificates of achievement, awards, recognition

· Educational certificates of completion, diplomas, or degrees

· Evidence of volunteering, charitable donations, community activism

· Letters of support from friends, family, church members, community leaders

· Evidence of child support (even if not court ordered!) for dependent children— including cancelled checks, copies of money orders, certified records from a government depository showing current balance with arrearage, or proof of wage garnishment; receipts or records of payments to third parties for services provided to child; and any other documentation of child support payments.

· Copies of tax returns evidencing payment of taxes


For more detailed information on USCIS’ good moral character requirement, please the USCIS Policy Manual on Good Moral Character.


If you are filing a Naturalization or VAWA application, it is important to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney. Both applications require background checks, proof of Good Moral Character, and other eligibility requirements. A denial of an immigration benefit could lead to commencement of deportation proceedings.

To consult with the Law Office of S.A. Peterkin, call us at 321-325-1125 or visit us at www.sapeterkinlaw.com.


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