EAH Immigration Blog

Naturalization: Conditional Bar to Good Moral Character for Unlawful Acts

USCIS is also updating its policy guidance in its Policy Manual on “unlawful acts” during the applicable statutory period that reflect adversely on moral character and may prevent an applicant from meeting the good moral character (GMC) requirement for naturalization. An applicant who has committed, was convicted of, or was imprisoned for an “unlawful act” during the applicable statutory period (three or five years, depending on the case) may be found to lack GMC if the act adversely reflects on his or her moral character, unless the applicant can demonstrate extenuating circumstances. An act is unlawful if it violates a criminal or civil law of the jurisdiction where it was committed. The regulation addressing “unlawful acts” does not require the applicant to have been charged with or convicted of the offense. Previously, the Policy Manual did not include extensive information on “unlawful acts.” This update provides additional examples of “unlawful acts,” emphasizes that USCIS officers determine whether an “unlawful act” is a conditional bar on a case-by-case basis, and provides guidance on that case-by-case analysis. The update further identifies unlawful acts that may affect GMC based on judicial precedent.

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