New rules clarify moral character for naturalization

Coming to the United States from another country can be exciting and quite intimidating. If you already speak English, you have an advantage, but you may still struggle with some of the slang and customs. Nevertheless, once you are acclimated, you may find many opportunities open to you through education, employment, travel and other offerings. Depending on the restrictions on your visa, you may want to take advantage of all of them.

On the other hand, you may already know that becoming a citizen of the U.S. is what you want. More than living for a limited time within the restrictions of a visa or worrying about your green card status, you want to enjoy all the benefits that citizenship offers. However, you may have some hurdles to clear, especially if your past includes items that may bring into question your good moral character.

Measuring your moral character

To accept your application for naturalization, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services must agree that you have good moral character in addition to meeting the other requirements for citizenship. Until recently, this qualification was rather vague. If you committed a crime in the five years prior to applying for citizenship, the court may determine you did not have sufficiently good moral character for naturalization. Recent policy updates have added more specific acts that may damage your chances for obtaining citizenship, including:

  • Two or more convictions for drunk driving
  • Conspiracy to distribute drugs
  • Various types of fraud, such as Social Security or insurance fraud
  • Voting unlawfully
  • Failing to pay taxes
  • Sexual assault

The addition of these and other specific violations of the law will supposedly allow USCIS agents to make more consistent decisions regarding good moral character. You may agree that this is important when your citizenship and future opportunities are at stake. Of course, convictions for murder and other aggravated felonies may still be permanent bars to your chances for naturalization.

However, if you have something on your recent record that you fear will bar you from obtaining citizenship, you may be relieved to know that USCIS officers review each case on its own merits. You may be able to present evidence that your record does not reflect your true moral character or that there are other circumstances to consider beyond your criminal record. With the help of a skilled Kentucky attorney, you may look forward to a bright future despite some darkness in your past.