What is Good moral character requirements in Naturalization?

By Atty. Crispin Caday Lozano

Most denials of naturalization application is premised upon lack of good moral character.  For many people the term “good moral character” is not well defined.  In this issue we will clarify some of the common misconceptions about “good moral character”  Our immigration law requires that an applicant for naturalization be a person of “good moral character.” The period reviewed for most applicants is the five years prior to filing the N-400. Some applicants who are married to U.S. citizens are able to take advantage of the shorter timeframe of three years, instead of the standard five years.

It is important to remember that, in addition to the three or five year period prior to filing for naturalization, the requirement to maintain good moral character continues until the oath of citizenship is completed and one actually becomes a U.S. citizen. Therefore, acts that occur after filing the naturalization application and prior to the oath ceremony can affect eligibility and must be disclosed. There are also some acts occurring prior to the three- or five-year period that are serious enough to prevent naturalization. These are described below. This is just one of the nuances that needs to be considered when filing for U.S. citizenship.

The good moral character in naturalization has certain requirements. There are permanent and conditional bars to the determination of good moral character.

We will discuss the conditional bars to naturalization in this article.

Q: What do conditional bars to good moral character mean?

A:  Conditional bars are not permanent in nature and are triggered by specific acts, offenses, activities, circumstances, or convictions within the statutory period for naturalization, including the period prior to filing and up to the time of the Oath of Allegiance. Some crimes bar you from naturalizing for only the five or three years prior to your applying for naturalization. That’s because the law requires a naturalization applicant to prove five years of good moral character as a condition for naturalizing, three years if you qualify under the special rules that apply to certain spouses of US citizens.

Q: What crimes are considered conditional bars to good moral character?

A:  Crimes in this conditional bar category include any crime involving moral turpitude, two or more gambling offenses, a drug offense, two or more nonpolitical offenses for which a judge sentenced you to five years’ imprisonment or more, and any crime for which you were confined to prison for more than 180 days. So, if the crime is in this group, but is not an aggravated felony, you can naturalize five (or three) years after having committed the crime.

Q:  How can it be determined that an act is a crime involving moral turpitude?

A: Whether an offense is a CIMT is largely based on whether the offense involves willful conduct that is morally reprehensible and intrinsically wrong, the essence of which is a reckless, evil or malicious intent. The Attorney General has decreed that a finding of “moral turpitude” requires that the perpetrator committed a reprehensible act with some form of guilty knowledge.

Q:  What crimes can be considered crimes involving moral turpitude?

A:  A crime involving fraud or dishonesty is usually considered to involve moral turpitude.

Other crimes the law considers to involve moral turpitude are: arson; assault with intent to kill or inflict serious bodily harm; bigamy; blackmail; bribery; bad check convictions; burglary; counterfeiting; larceny; perjury; prostitution; rape; drug crimes; receiving stolen goods; robbery; and sexual offenses. These crimes may be divided into crimes against a person, crimes against property, sexual and family crimes, and crimes against the authority of the government,

Q:  When are crimes against a person considered a CIMT?

A:  Crimes against a person involve moral turpitude when the offense contains criminal intent or recklessness or when the crime is defined as morally reprehensible by state statute. Criminal intent or recklessness may be inferred from the presence of unjustified violence or the use of a dangerous weapon. For example, aggravated battery is usually, if not always, a CIMT. Simple assault and battery is not usually considered a CIMT.

Q:  When are crimes against property considered a CIMT?

A: Moral turpitude attaches to any crime against property that involves fraud, whether it entails fraud against the government or against an individual. Certain crimes against property may require guilty knowledge or intent to permanently take property. Petty theft, grand theft, forgery, and robbery are CIMTs in some states.

Q:  When are sexual and family crimes considered CIMTs?

A:  It is difficult to discern a distinguishing set of principles that the courts apply to determine whether a particular offense involving sexual and family crimes is a CIMT. In some cases, the presence or absence of violence seems to be an important factor. The presence or absence of criminal intent may also be a determining factor. The CIMT determination depends upon state statutes and the controlling case law and must be considered on a case-by-case basis. Offenses such as spousal or child abuse may rise to the level of a CIMT, while an offense involving a domestic simple assault generally does not. An offense relating to indecent exposure or abandonment of a minor child may or may not rise to the level of a CIMT. In general, if the person knew or should have known that the victim was a minor, any intentional sexual contact with a child involves moral turpitude.

Q:  When are crimes against the authority of the government considered crimes involving moral turpitude?

A:  The presence of fraud primarily determines the presence of moral turpitude in crimes against the authority of the government.


Note:   This is not a legal advice.



For the week ending February 9, 2018, we received approvals of one I-485, one N-400, one I-90 and one I-751.

  1. On January 12, 2018, we received an approval of immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate Manila for an alien who applied for I-601-A as one who entered as a seaman.
  2. On January 10, 2018, we received an approval form USCIS of a self petition for abused spouse based on same sex marriage.
  3. On January 3, 2018, we received an approval from the Immigration Court for a waiver of misrepresentation for a client who was charged with misrepresentation in marriage;
  4. On December 15, 2017, we received an approval from USCIS for an adjustment of status for same sex marriage for an applicant who entered without inspection but has Sec. 245 (i).
  5. On November 16, 2017, we received an approval from Immigration Court for a waiver of misrepresentation for entering as single daughter of U.S. citizen but actually married.
  6. On October 25, 2017, we received an approval of I-485 adjustment of status for our client who has a DUI but has proof that he has cleared his record.
  7. On October 20, 2017, we received an approval of naturalization for a client who was granted a waiver of misrepresentation in Immigration Court.
  8. On October 16, 2017, we received from USCIS an approval for an adjustment of status for same sex marriage, after two scheduled interviews.
  9. On October 9, 2017, we received an approval from USCIS for adjustment of status for a client who entered as a seaman but has Sec. 245 (i) eligibility.
  10. On October 2, 2017, we received an approval of adjustment of status from USCIS for a client who entered without inspection but has Sec. 245(i).
  11. For the week ending September 15, 2017, we received three Immigrant Visa Approvals in U.S. Embassy Manila for three applicants who entered as seaman  under  the Provisional Waiver Program.

If you have immigration problems the Law Offices of Crispin C. Lozano can help you find a solution before your problem gets worse which could lead to deportation and family separation.

Crispin Caday Lozano, Esq. is an active member of the State Bar of California, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association.  He specializes in immigration law and personal injury.  For free consultation email or call (info@ccllaw.net / 1-877-456-9266)

Toll Free 1-877-4LOZANO for free consultation or Schedule an Appointment