Part II: Naturalization and Good Moral Character
I. Good Moral Character (GMC): The courts have held that GMC is character that measures up to the standards of the average citizens of the community. Any act or conduct that offends the moral character of the average citizen in the community may be considered as evidence of a lack of GMC EVEN IF the permanent resident was not arrested for the behavior or if arrested was not convicted.
Good Moral Character (GMC) is determined on a case-by-case basis. Section 101(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and 8 CFR 316.10 specifically provide that GMC cannot be established where some types of criminal conduct has occurred.
II.Permanent Statutory Bars to Establishing Good Moral Character
There are some criminal acts that will prevent the ability to show GMC FOREVER and will lead to deportation. This rule applies regardless of how long you have been in the United States, how many children you have and whether you have a spouse.
- Murder. If a permanent resident is convicted of murder he/she will never be able to show GMC. 8 CFR 316.10(b)(1)(i). The Adjudicators Field Manual specifically states that, “you should deny the naturalization and consider whether the case should be referred for removal proceedings."
2. Keep in mind that causing another person’s death is not necessarily murder – accidents do happen. The author represented a permanent resident who was detained by ICE because he was a fault in a car accident that resulted in the death of the other driver. The client was not deported and is now a United States Citizen. The death of the other driver was an accident and was not murder for the purposes of immigration.
3. A permanent resident convicted of an aggravated felony that was committed on or after November 29, 1990 is permanently barred from showing GMC. INA 101(a)(43) What constitutes an aggravated felony varies. Some crimes are aggravated felonies only if they carry a sentence to confinement of more than one year. Other crimes such as crimes of violence and drug crimes (other than possession of marijuana less than 30 grams) are aggravated felonies regardless of the sentence. Theft crimes are aggravated felonies depending on the value of what was taken and/or the sentence.
III. Statutory Bars to Good Moral Character
1. Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT): Regardless of whether the permanent resident was arrested or convicted or merely admits to committing one or more crimes involving moral turpitude during the statutory period he/she cannot establish GMC and is ineligible for naturalization. See 8 CFR 316.10(b)(2)(i).
IV.Other Acts that prevent a showing of Good Moral Character: There are acts not normally charged as crimes, though they technically are crimes, that may result in a finding that a permanent resident does not have the GMC necessary to become a naturalized US citizen:
- Failure to Pay Taxes or Failure to File an Honest Tax Return: Paying your taxes is evidence that you have the GMC required in order to Naturalize. The failure to pay taxes or the failure to file an honest tax return may result in a finding that you lack GMC. Over the past few years the Immigration Court and the USCIS have looked more closely at the tax returns of applicants and made decisions based on their findings.
- Failure to Pay Child Support: An applicant for Naturalization will be required to provide the adjudicator with a copy of any child support order and evidence that he/she is current with his/her payments. Being delinquent in paying child support is not an absolute bar to a finding of GMC but the permanent resident better have a good reason for the delinquency if you he/she wants a positive decision.
- Failure to pay fines for traffic violations or non-moving violations. Where the permanent resident has more than one outstanding fine the adjudicator has the discretion to find a lack of GMC and can require the applicant to wait for the statutory period to expire.
- Not beingTruthful on the Application or at the Interview: Getting caught in a lie can carry the worst consequences and will result in a finding of a lack of GMC. The adjudicator can make your life miserable and it may end up costing you dearly to clear up the situation - if it is even possible. When in doubt how to answer a question on the application or at the interview, retain an experienced immigration attorney to assist and prepare you. Yes, you may have to pay for their services, but if you are serious about becoming a US Citizen you need to consider making the investment.
V.Conclusion: The best defense against a finding that a permanent resident does not have the GMC to become a naturalized citizen isto know the behavior that may constitute a lack of GMC for immigration purposes and avoid it. In Part III of this article we will discuss what to do if you are found by the adjudicator not to have GMC.