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The "good moral character" requirement and citizenship

People in California who are applying for U.S. citizenship may know that one of the requirements is that the person be "of good moral character" and wonder what that means in a practical sense. First, it is only necessary to prove that this has been the case for the last five years. People who are applying as the spouse of a U.S. citizen only need to prove good moral character for the past three years.

In the past, proving good moral character for citizenship purposes meant bringing witnesses who were citizens that could attest to the person's morality. Now, establishing good moral character is a matter of there being no record of a person violating the law.

Examples of actions that would demonstrate poor moral character for purposes of citizenship include not paying child support or not filing tax returns. If applicants did not file a tax return because they did not earn enough to be eligible for taxes, this would not count against them. A criminal record may also be considered evidence that a person is not of good moral character.

People who are working toward U.S. citizenship may want to consult an attorney. This may be the case in particular if the person has a criminal record or other complications. An attorney can discuss what other alternatives might be available. However, even if the person is not concerned about the "good moral character" aspect of the naturalization process, an attorney can explain procedures along the way and help prepare and submit the required paperwork.

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  • American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • State Bar of California | California Board of Legal Specialization
  • Avvo
  • Orange County Bar Association
  • Irvine Chamber