If you are taking steps to become a U.S. citizen, you may have been considering this change for some time. The process of becoming a citizen or undertaking any immigration path can be lengthy and uncertain. After the unprecedented events that recently resulted in the closings of many businesses and offices, you may be even more anxious about the success of your naturalization.
You may already know that any immigration process generally requires you to complete an in-depth application, participate in an interview, and submit fingerprints and other items for investigation into your background. If this background check reveals anything that may reflect poorly on your moral character, your bid for citizenship may be in jeopardy. Recently, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services clarified the protocol for determining an applicant’s good moral character.
In the past, when deciding whether the moral character of applicants made them ineligible for naturalization, USCIS agents had little guidance in their policy manual. The definition of good moral character was vague, and the examples of disqualifying acts were minimal. As a result, agents used their own discrepancy, resulting in inconsistent rulings. The new guidelines still allow USCIS officers to consider other factors beyond an arrest or conviction for certain crimes, but the revisions now specify certain unlawful acts that may disqualify an applicant, such as:
- Violating trade embargos and sanctions the U.S. has imposed on other nations
- Failing to appear for court after posting bail
- Voting unlawfully
- Committing bank fraud, insurance fraud, Social Security fraud or other financial crimes
- Committing forgery or falsifying records, including immigration records
- Being involved in certain drug crimes
- Failing to file or pay taxes
- Sexual assault or harassment
These are only a few unlawful acts listed in the USCIS manual that may bar you from becoming a U.S. citizen. Officers will usually look back three to five years for such violations, and you may have the opportunity to present evidence of extenuating circumstances that would lessen the impact of the unlawful act on your good moral character. USCIS officers receive training in order to examine each case on its individual merits.
Obtaining citizenship through naturalization may open many doors for you, including securing your status in the U.S. where you may have work, a home, family and friends. Many in your situation find that the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney makes a difference during the process, especially when matters of moral character are on the table.