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Can Moral Character Impact Immigration Decisions?

Good moral character is a legal requirement set forth by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). This requirement is essential for the process of naturalization, which is the highest benefit that the U.S. can grant to immigrants.

Some people are surprised to learn that the USCIS does not offer a clear definition of good moral character, and this is something inherited from the British common law system. The USCIS mentions moral standards of citizens in their communities, but it does not go into detail as to what these standards may be in multicultural society.

Immigration attorneys in San Diego have been able to decode the good moral character provision as one that disapproves of crimes involving moral turpitude. To this effect, such crimes may be described as depraved, vile, reckless, or evil. More specifically, case law indicates that naturalization cases have been denied based on the moral turpitude of crimes such as: murder, rape, child abuse, kidnapping, incest, fraud, and others.

Case law also shows that the USCIS tends to evaluate good moral character based on when the offending behavior was committed. An applicant who is proven to be a habitual drunkard due to frequent encounters with law enforcement in public settings may be denied naturalization benefits if the behavior took place within the last five years.

Drug offenses, including possession, may be considered crimes of moral turpitude. However, the sheer number of drug offenders in the U.S. is taken into account by USCIS officials. As long as the offense took place five years prior to the petition for naturalization, immigrants may feel confident that they will be evaluated as persons of good moral character.

In the past, offenses involving immigration fraud or helping illegal immigrants cross the border into the U.S. were considered disqualifying offenses by zealous USCIS officials. These days, these offenses are evaluated more rationally in terms of when they took place and the circumstances at the time they were committed.

Proving good moral character for the purpose of naturalization may be tricky for some applicants. Nonetheless, seasoned immigration attorneys are often able to improve the outcome of their clients, even if they have to appear before the Board of Immigration Appeals.

For more information or for help with immigration issues, such as obtaining an eb-1 visa in San Diego or an eb-3 visa, reach out to KS Visa Law by calling (858) 874-0711. We offer free immigration consultations.

April 2024