Individuals who wish to apply for naturalization in the U.S. must meet many requirements. Some of these requirements seem straightforward, while others have a level of objectivity to them.
The test for good moral character might seem to fall into the latter category, though it does include some hard and fast rules.
A long-standing requirement
Information from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services traces the requirement for good moral character back to the Naturalization Act of 1790. The act calls for applicants to exhibit acceptable moral character that meets and does not offend the community standards. A person could fail to meet this standard even without an arrest or conviction of a crime.
The applicant also should show this good character for a reasonable period of time, typically from before the attempt at naturalization and continuing through to the Oath of Allegiance. In many regards, the process involves subjective judgments and USCIS personnel looks at applications on a case-by-case basis.
The assessment of good moral character covers several pertinent areas. These include the applicant’s record, statements included in the application and oral testimony provided during an interview.
An objective component
Some factors could automatically preclude a person from meeting the character requirements of naturalization. Certain categories of criminal conduct could disallow the applicant and could lead to removal actions. Other types of criminal conduct could factor into the process as well.
Individuals guilty or suspected of misconduct, according to the intent of the 1790 Act, have the possibility of reforming their character. Evidence of this could lead to a successful naturalization application in the future.