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Naturalization and your good moral character

If you have been anticipating the time when you would become a U.S. citizen, you may be frustrated by the recent circumstances that have limited the available services of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. You are not alone. Many who wish to go through the naturalization process are feeling the same frustration over the delay of their application.

However, in addition to the events beyond your control, there are other factors that may delay or derail your path to citizenship. One of them is failing to meet eligibility requirements because of questions about your moral character. The USCIS has always had strict policies regarding the commission of unlawful acts by those seeking citizenship through naturalization, and recently, the government has clarified certain elements of its policies so that immigration agents can make fair and consistent judgments.

Recent changes in the USCIS manual

In the past, the policy manual that immigration adjudicators used to make decisions about the good moral character of a naturalization applicant had few specifics about the unlawful acts that may disqualify the applicant. This overly generalized guidance resulted in confusing and inconsistent rulings. The recent changes in the manual have not altered the fact that an unlawful act may still have a negative effect on the USCIS' analysis of your moral character. However, it does provide more specific examples of crimes, such as:

  • Voting unlawfully or registering to vote in U.S. elections
  • Failing to pay taxes or to file your returns
  • Committing Social Security fraud, insurance fraud, bank fraud or other financial crimes
  • Committing fraud related to your immigration documents or interviews
  • Jumping bail
  • Harassment
  • Sexual assault
  • Forgery
  • Drug crimes

This list is not comprehensive, and immigration adjudicators may use it as a guide. If you have other crimes or criminal convictions on your record besides those listed above, naturalization agents will determine if your record damages your moral character and prohibits you from proceeding toward your goal of citizenship.

What should I do?

If you have concerns about your eligibility for naturalization because of an arrest, conviction or imprisonment, you may want to take the time to seek reliable answers to your questions. Even with a questionable past, you may be able to demonstrate good moral character with the assistance of a skilled and experienced Texas immigration attorney. Time is of the essence, and you certainly do not want to deal with additional delays in the process of seeking citizenship.

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