While it is true that there is a great deal of ambiguity surrounding the meaning of the term ‘Good Moral Character’ in the context of obtaining U.S. Citizenship by Naturalization, there are some crimes and bad acts that may prevent one from obtaining U.S. citizenship.
It is important to understand that there two areas of consideration that the agency takes into account when making a determination in granting/denying naturalization.
1) Statutory bars the finding of good moral character where the applicant:
• has committed and been convicted of one or more crimes involving moral turpitude
• has committed and been convicted of 2 or more offenses for which the total sentence imposed was 5 years or more
• has committed and been convicted of any controlled substance law, except for a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana
• has been confined to a penal institution during the statutory period, as a result of a conviction, for an aggregate period of 180 days or more
• has committed and been convicted of two or more gambling offenses
• is or has earned his or her principal income from illegal gambling
• is or has been involved in prostitution or commercialized vice
• is or has been involved in smuggling illegal aliens into the United States
• is or has been a habitual drunkard
• is practicing or has practiced polygamy
• has willfully failed or refused to support dependents
• has given false testimony, under oath, in order to receive a benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
• Also, persons convicted of murder at any time or convicted of aggravated felonies on or after Nov. 29, 1990, cannot establish good moral character and are thus permanently barred from naturalization.
Consult an Immigration Attorney
If you have committed crimes or acts that at may fall within the statutory bar category you should consult with an immigration attorney before filing. Certain offenses not only make you ineligible for naturalization but could actually trigger removal (deportation) proceedings against you.
Another reason you should consult an attorney is that some offenses may not be as damaging as they may seem to be. For example, a single DUI conviction is typically not considered to be a crime involving moral turpitude unless there are aggravating factors such as bodily injury and/or a DUI with a suspended driver license. –But each case is different and based on the particular charges and disposition so you must be certain before proceeding with your application.
2) Catch All Provision:
In addition, there is a so called “catch all” provision that provides wide discretionary authority to the USCIS examiner in looking to other bad acts that may have been committed or admitted to during the “statutory period”. And, in certain circumstances, USCIS may look into negative factors that occurred beyond the statutory period.
Warning: Owing to the potential serious consequences that may result from filing an application for naturalization, it is highly recommended that you consult with an immigration attorney before proceeding.