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"Good Moral Character" Explained

One of the most difficult aspects of immigration is that some of the criteria is subjective in nature. Many cases require that a person demonstrate that they have "good moral character." How does one quantify good moral character (GMC)?

Let's start with the definition provided by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): "GMC means character which measures up to the standards of average citizens of the community in which the applicant resides." That's still a pretty broad definition, but in general, the most important aspects of maintaining good moral character are avoiding any and all criminal activity and fulfilling one's obligations under the law. But when does good moral character actually come into play in the immigration process? There are a number of situations that require an application demonstrate GMC. The first of which is naturalization. If you are a legal permanent resident of the United States and you are interested in becoming a citizen, you will have to prove that you have been a person of good moral character for up to 5 years prior to your application for citizenship. On the flip side, if you are facing deportation and you want to qualify for a cancellation of removal, you will also have to prove your GMC. Additionally, if you are in removal proceedings and you wish to seek Voluntary Departure, meaning you agree to leave the country on your own by a specified date in the future, you will need to show good moral character as well. Additionally, victims of abuse who are applying for a U-visa or for a visa through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), must demonstrate that they themselves are in fact persons of good moral character. Whatever the case may be, a USCIS officer will make a determination about your good moral character by analyzing your record and analyzing statements made in your application and any oral interviews. Good moral character is determined on a case-by-case basis, but criminal activity is often the biggest disqualifier.

It is in your best interests to avoid all crimes, but be aware that if a great deal of time has passed since your transgressions or if your offenses were minor, this may not disqualify you as a person of good moral character.

The discretionary nature of good moral character means it is important you utilize an immigration lawyer who can help present your case in the best light possible. If you are facing an immigration decision or application that requires you to demonstrate good moral character, please call Landerholm Immigration and let us fight to help you achieve your American dream.

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