04 Oct Good moral character requirements in Naturalization
By Atty. Crispin Caday Lozano
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.
- 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).
- For the week ending September 15, 2017, we received three Immigrant Visa Approval in U.S. Embassy Manila for three applicants who entered as seaman under the Provisional Waiver Program.
- For the week ending September 8, 2017, we received four N-400 Naturalization approvals.
- On August 31, 2017 we received an approval of adjustment of status for a client who problems with birth certificate which we corrected.
- On August 25, 2017, we received approval of I-751 removal of condition on same sex marriage/
- On August 18, 2017, we received two approvals for N-400 applications.
- On August 16, 2017, we received an approval of I-601A provisional waiver for a Mexican client.
- On August 10, 2017, we received a grant from the Immigration Court on a Motion to Terminate Removal Proceedings for a client whose criminal case we have dismissed in criminal court.
- On July 18, 2017, we received an approval of green card at the U.S. Embassy Manila for the family of a client who was granted a waiver of misrepresentation. His wife and children were approved after the court granted the waiver.
- On June 28, 2017, we received a withdrawal of inadmissibility and removability charges from the Customs and Border Enforcement for a client who was charged with drug case while he was entering San Francisco Airport from the Philippines. The case was withdrawn after we have expunged the drug case in Criminal Court.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org / 1-877-456-9266)