Understanding Good Moral Character Requirements for Naturalization

Understanding Good Moral Character Requirements for Naturalization


If you wish to become naturalized you will need to prove that you have exhibited “good moral character” for at least a 5-year period immediately preceding your naturalization application. 

But what does good moral character mean, and how do you provide evidence that you’ve lived up to the standard? 

Evidence of Good Moral Character

Evidence can include:

  • The ability to demonstrate that you have no criminal record and no arrest record. 
  • Special recognition or awards from employers, schools, religious organizations, or volunteer organizations.
  • Proof of involvement in volunteer or faith-based organizations. 
  • Witness testimonies from friends, neighbors, family members, religious leaders, or employers. 
  • Requesting and completing an FBI background check. 
  • Obtaining police clearance letters or criminal clearance letters proving you have no criminal record from every location you’ve lived in for the past 5 years. 
  • Charitable contribution receipts.

The more evidence you can provide, the better. Often the FBI background check and the clearance letter serve as the bare minimum evidence. 

Where to Get an FBI Background Check in Philadelphia

The state of Pennsylvania uses IdentoGo. You can register at an IdentoGO location, schedule an appointment, get fingerprinted, and request the FBI background check at the location nearest you. 

Where to get a Clearance Letter in Philadelphia

Here in Philadelphia a clearance letter is called a Letter of Good Conduct. Bring a fingerprint card to City Hall, Room 168. The Department of Records forwards the card to the Police Department. 

What could serve as evidence of poor moral character? 

There is no statutory definition for what constitutes a lack of good moral character. Certain behaviors can tend to lead to denial, such as gambling, open alcoholism, or extramarital affairs. Marijuana, the legal in some states, can get you barred, even if you are only working for a cannabis company. Despite the existence of marijuana businesses, cannabis is still illegal at the federal level and immigration is a federal matter. 

The statute does permanently bar someone if they have a murder conviction. You can also be barred permanently if you’ve been involved in persecution, genocide, torture, or severe violations of religious freedom. You can also be barred if you committed certain aggravated felonies prior to November 29, 1990. 

Can an immigration lawyer challenge a ruling that says you lack good moral character?

Yes, we can appeal and challenge the decision.

It’s better to show a strong case for good moral character in the first place, though. 

Contact our office to get help today. We can ensure your naturalization application is as strong as possible.

See also:

How Much Does It Cost to Hire an Immigration Attorney? 

What Immigrants Need to Know About Marijuana Use 

How Social Media Impacts Your Immigration Case 


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