Why Would Citizenship Be Denied Due to the “Good Moral Character” Rule?

citizenship denied due to good moral character

Under U.S. immigration law, citizenship can be denied to applicants who fail to demonstrate good moral character, a requirement that assesses an individual’s conduct and adherence to ethical standards. This provision aims to ensure that those seeking the privileges and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship have a history of upstanding behavior and are likely to contribute positively to society.

The good moral character requirement is not a singular incident but rather a pattern of behavior that is evaluated based on various factors, such as criminal history, honesty during the application process, and adherence to legal and social norms. Failing to meet these criteria can result in the denial of citizenship, even if the applicant satisfies all other eligibility requirements.

Here’s what you need to know about citizenship denial due to good moral character and how our immigration lawyers can help.

Understanding the Good Moral Character Requirement

To become a naturalized US citizen, you must demonstrate good moral character during the statutory period, typically five years for lawful permanent residents.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) evaluates your standing based on your actions, conduct, and criminal history during this time frame.

We recommend that applicants gather proof during their residence that shows they have been and continue to be a good person with moral character or risk having their naturalization application denied.

Examples of Lacking Good Moral Character

The USCIS may determine you lack good moral character under several grounds. Below is a list of some of the most common examples:

  • Criminal Convictions and Offenses: Misdemeanor and felony convictions, including aggravated felonies and crimes of moral turpitude, can be significant red flags. USCIS may even consider some criminal arrests or offenses without a conviction.
  • Failure to Pay Taxes and Child Support: Neglecting to fulfill your financial obligations, such as tax payments or court-ordered child support, can indicate a lack of good moral character.
  • Fraud, Deception, or Lack of Candor: Providing false or misleading information on immigration applications or during interviews can be viewed as a lack of honesty and integrity, which are vital aspects of good moral character.

It’s important to note that this list is not exhaustive, and the determination of good moral character is made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the totality of an individual’s conduct and circumstances.

Criminal Offenses That May Raise Red Flags

While USCIS evaluates each case individually, certain criminal offenses are more likely to cause concerns about an applicant’s moral character:

  • Misdemeanor and Felony Convictions: Any criminal convictions, from misdemeanors to felonies, can be problematic for naturalization.
  • Aggravated Felonies and Crimes of Moral Turpitude: These types of serious crimes, which may include offenses like murder, fraud, or sexual abuse, often result in permanent bars to establishing good moral character.
  • DUIs, DWIs, and Drug-Related Offenses: Driving under the influence and drug-related crimes can be viewed as indicators of poor judgment and disregard for the law.
  • Family-Based Offenses like Domestic Violence: Crimes involving violence, abuse, or neglect within the family can raise significant concerns about an applicant’s moral character.

Immigration attorneys can sometimes rebut lesser criminal charges to show that applicants have good moral character despite their troubles with the law.

USCIS Has Discretion in Evaluating Moral Character

It’s important to note that – to a certain extent – USCIS has discretion in evaluating an applicant’s moral character. Immigration agents consider various factors in their investigations, such as the recency of any offenses, the seriousness of the conduct, and evidence of rehabilitation or reform.

When deciding on moral character, the law instructs USCIS adjudicators to review the totality of circumstances, not just isolated incidents. Legal analysis and guidance from experienced immigration attorneys can help applicants understand how USCIS may view their situation.

Permanent Bars to Good Moral Character

While the USCIS has discretion in many cases, certain offenses create permanent bars for establishing good moral character.

  • Aggravated Felonies: Convictions for certain aggravated felonies, such as murder, rape, or drug trafficking, permanently prevent an applicant from demonstrating good moral character.
  • Certain Crimes of Moral Turpitude: Some crimes involving moral depravity, like fraud or sexual abuse, may also create a permanent bar.

Immigration statutes and binding case precedents have established these permanent bars, meaning there is no possibility of overcoming the lack of good moral character when committing these specific offenses.

Seeking Guidance from California Immigration Attorneys

Given the complexity of the good moral character requirement and the potential consequences of a denial, it’s highly advisable to seek guidance from an experienced California immigration attorney.

An attorney’s in-depth knowledge of legal standards, USCIS adjudication trends, and case-specific factors can be invaluable.

Immigration attorneys can advocate for clients, present mitigating evidence, and help navigate the naturalization process. Their counsel frequently offers applicants a chance of success.

Application Denial and Next Steps: Understanding the Consequences

If USCIS denies your application for naturalization due to a lack of good moral character, several potential consequences exist.

  • Appealing the Decision: In some cases, you may have the option to appeal the denial through the appropriate channels and challenge the denial in federal court.
  • Filing a New Application: Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to file a new application for naturalization after a certain period has passed, allowing you to demonstrate rehabilitation and good moral character.
  • Deportation Proceedings: In more serious cases, a citizenship denial based on a lack of good moral character could trigger deportation proceedings, potentially leading to removal from the United States.

Consulting with an experienced immigration attorney is crucial to understanding your specific options and the potential implications of a denial.

Contact The Law Office of Lina Baroudi Today

If you’re considering applying for US citizenship or have concerns about your eligibility due to potential good moral character issues, don’t hesitate to contact The Law Office of Lina Baroudi.

Our experienced California immigration lawyers are here to help you become a US citizen and ensure you have a chance of success when applying.

Call us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward achieving your dream of becoming a US citizen.

Author Bio

Lina Baroudi is the owner and managing attorney at the Law Office of Lina Baroudi. Lina is a dedicated immigration attorney with over ten years of experience in the field. As an immigrant herself, having moved to the United States from Syria at a young age, Ms. Baroudi understands the challenges and complexities that immigrants face. Her personal connection to immigrant rights fuels her passion and commitment to achieving success for her clients.

Throughout her career, Lina has been recognized for her excellence in immigration law. She was listed in the California 2015-2020 Rising Stars List by Super Lawyers, an honor given to only 2.5 percent of attorneys in the state. Lina’s proficiency in the field is further evidenced by her role as a Law Clerk at the California Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District, where she gained invaluable experience and knowledge. She also received the prestigious Witkin Award for Academic Excellence in Immigration Law during her time at Golden Gate University School of Law.

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