Effective December 13, 2019, USCIS has widened its policy guidance as it pertains to unlawful acts that may prevent naturalization applicants from meeting the “Good Moral Character” (GMC) requirement. Specifically, the “commission of, or conviction or imprisonment for, an unlawful act, during the statutory period for naturalization, may render an applicant ineligible for naturalization should the act be found to adversely reflect on moral character.”
This update now includes extensive information on such unlawful acts where the previous policy manual did not, and provides more examples and guidance for the purpose of implementing consistent and fair case-by-case determinations by USCIS adjudicators. It also additionally identifies unlawful acts based on judicial practice. Note that the update will not amend the way in which USCIS analyzes whether an applicant can demonstrate Good Moral Character and will only be applied to GMC as it relates to the unlawful acts regulation.
Previously (December 10th), a separate policy guidance was issued regarding how two or more DUI convictions or sentencing changes made after criminal sentencing might now affect GMC determinations.
The INA (Immigration and Nationality Act) determines that GMC is a naturalization requirement and that naturalization applicants are responsible for establishing GMC. Accordingly, certain unlawful acts determine the lack of GMC on behalf of the applicant.
If you have applied or plan to apply for naturalization, it is important to be aware of the following unlawful acts most commonly recognized (but not limited to):
- Bail jumping
- Bank fraud
- Conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance
- Failure to file or pay taxes
- False claim to U.S. citizenship
- Falsification of records
- Forgery uttering
- Insurance fraud
- Obstruction of justice
- Sexual assault
- Social security fraud
- Unlawful harassment
- Unlawful registration to vote
- Unlawful voting
- Violation of a U.S. embargo
In order to establish GMC, naturalization applicants will generally need to show that they are and continue to be persons of GMC during the statutory period - between green card status and filing for naturalization - and up taking the Oath of Allegiance. The statutory period varies and is 5 years for U.S. permanent residents, 3 years for applicants married to a U.S. citizen, and 1 year for certain U.S. Military service applicants who qualify.