Being a person of good moral character is one of the key requirements when it comes to applying for naturalization. You will not be considered to be of “good moral character” if you happen to commit certain crimes during the five years before you file the citizenship application or even if you lie during their citizenship interview.
General behaviors that show a lack of good moral character are:
• Drunk driving or being drunk most of the time.
• Illegal gambling.
• Lying to gain immigration benefits.
• Failing to pay court-ordered child support.
• Committing terrorist acts.
• Persecuting someone because of race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or social group.
You will never qualify for citizenship if you commit certain specific crimes. In such case, you will also be most likely removed from the US. These crimes are referred as “bars” to citizenship. Crimes those are “aggravated felonies” (if they were committed on or after November 29, 1990) are murder, rape, sexual abuse of a child, violent assault, treason, and illegal trafficking in drugs, firearms, or people. These will result in permanent bars to naturalization.
Also note that immigrants who were exempted or discharged from serving in the US Armed Forces as they were immigrants and immigrants who deserted from the US Armed Forces are also subject to permanently bar. Your case will be rejected if you act in other ways that show you lack good moral character. There are other crimes that are temporary bars and it generally prevent you from becoming a citizen for up to five years after you commit that crime.
It is very important that you report any crime you committed when you apply for naturalization. You are also required to disclose all the crimes removed from your record or committed before your 18th birthday. If you try to hide it from the USCIS, your application will be rejected you can also be prosecuted. So remember to be transparent in all your disclosures.
There are many licensed and competent immigration lawyers who can help you with an immigration issue. Contact the local bar association to find one. There are some states that also certify specialists in US immigration law. If you need legal help on an immigration issue, but do not afford the fee to hire a lawyer, you do have a few low cost or free assistance options. Help is available from:
A Recognized Organization: is recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). To qualify under this classification, the organization should have enough knowledge and experience to provide services to immigrants. They are entitled to accept a nominal fee for those services.
An Accredited Representative: are connected to BIA “recognized organizations.” These representatives too are entitled to charge a very nominal fee for the services they provide.
- A Qualified Representative: provide free services. They have to know about US immigration law and the rules of practice in court. Examples of qualified representatives are law school students and graduates. People with good moral character who have a personal or professional affiliation with you also are eligible.
- Free Legal Service Providers: There are many attorneys and organizations willing to help foreign nationals in proceedings before the Immigration Courts. The attorneys and organizations help immigrants free of charge only in immigration proceedings. Some of them may not be able to help you with non-court-related matters (visa petitions, naturalization, etc.).