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U.S. citizenship: how to prove good moral character

On Behalf of Palacios Law Group

If you live in New York for at least three months, are 18 or older and meet the requirements for naturalization, you may apply for citizenship. Although residency is an essential part of becoming a U.S. citizen, it’s not the only one. Becoming a naturalized American takes time, and you must meet certain expectations.

According to the National Law Review, having good moral character is necessary for becoming an American citizen. Even if you had problems in your past, you might still meet the requirements.

Good moral character

Being of good moral character means that your actions are those of the average American. When individuals apply for citizenship, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services runs a criminal background check as part of the process. Depending on your situation, this investigation may look back one to five years. The government doesn’t consider you a person of good moral character if you committed certain acts during this period, such as the following:

  • Your income stems from illegal gambling
  • You have two or more convictions for gambling offenses
  • You were in jail for more than a total of 180 days
  • You obtained immigration benefits by committing fraud

The USGIS has an extensive list of offenses that result in a conditional or permanent ban to citizenship. Crimes of moral turpitude include aggravated assault, murder and kidnapping, all of which may make you permanently ineligible for citizenship.

Proving good moral character

Be as honest and truthful as possible throughout the process when discussing your history with law enforcement. Positive letters from neighbors, religious leaders and other community members can attest to your contribution to society. Understanding the requirements for naturalization can help you address the issues effectively and sidestep barriers.

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