What does “good moral character” mean for citizenship?

USCIS requires applicants to prove that they are a person of good moral character in order to complete naturalization. To be a person of good moral character means that an individual will maintain and has maintained the expectations of a law abiding member of society. These standards must be consistent to the same moral standards of the citizens residing in their community. Generally, an individual with good moral character is an honest and respectable person who follows the rules and regulations of the state and federal law.

Good moral character generally infers that an individual has refrained from committing severe crimes. If an applicant has committed any aggravated felonies, they will not be found to have good moral character. Conviction of certain serious crimes, giving false testimony on behalf of their immigration case or violating the controlled substance law can affects an applicant’s case for moral character. Applicants who have committed crimes involving moral turpitude may be found of lacking moral character. It is possible to have committed certain crimes and still have an opportunity to achieve good moral standing depending on the circumstances and time between crimes.

A prospective applicant must provide evidence pertaining to proof of good moral character 5 years prior to filing their naturalization application. Maintaining good moral character up until the oath ceremony is crucial for eligibility of naturalization. The time prior to these 5 years may also factor into the judgment of an applicant’s conduct depending on the extremity of a case.

What does good moral character mean for expedited citizenship (what is expedited citizenship)?

Members who have served in the US armed services may be eligible for expedited naturalization. Military members do not have to meet the residency requirement and are able to apply for naturalization almost immediately. Spouses of US military members who are deployed or have the possibility of being deployed, may also be eligible to expedite their naturalization. Some spouses that are overseas may also be able to naturalize without having to travel to the United States during the naturalization process. Oversea spouses do not have to meet the 5-year lawful permanent resident requirement prior to filing if they have resided in the US as a lawful permanent resident for at least 3 years with their US citizen spouse and if their US citizen spouse was a citizen for at least 3 years.

Military members and their spouses are required to demonstrate that they are a person of good moral character to be eligible for naturalization. They must prove that they have not committed a series of crimes and prove to be a law-abiding member of society reflective to their surrounding citizens. Because the time period between filing for naturalization can be shorter for military personnel and their oversea spouses, the good moral character time judgment window can be shortened to three years prior to filing for spouses and 1 year for military members. The time prior to these 3 years can also factor into the judgment of an applicant’s conduct depending on the extremity of a case. Military members that apply for naturalization during “peacetime naturalization” or after one year of service must prove good moral character for at least 5 years prior to applying for naturalization. Members who have served during certain times of hostilities need to prove good moral character for at least a year prior to applying.

https://www.uscis.gov/military/citizenship-military-personnel-family-members/citizenship-spouses-and-children-military-members

https://www.uscis.gov/policymanual/HTML/PolicyManual-Volume12-PartG-Chapter4.html

https://www.uscis.gov/policymanual/Print/PolicyManual-Volume12-PartI.html

https://www.americanbar.org/publications/gp_solo/2013/september_october/hidden_immigration_benefits_military_personnel.html

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