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Changes to “Unlawful Acts” Bar for Good Moral Character for Naturalization

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USCIS recently issued a policy alert expanding the guidance on unlawful acts that determine an applicant’s eligibility for good moral character (GMC) for naturalization purposes. These changes can greatly affect an applicant meeting the GMC requirement for naturalization. The expanded policy went into effect on December 13, 2019.

Policy highlights include:

  • Expands existing guidance on the “unlawful acts” bar to establishing GMC for naturalization, including adding additional examples of unlawful acts.
  • Emphasizes that USCIS officers determine whether an “unlawful act” is a conditional bar on a case-by-case basis and provides guidance on that case-by-case analysis.

Conditional bars are triggered by specific acts, offenses, activities, circumstances, or convictions within the statutory period for naturalization, including the period prior to filing and up to the time of the Oath of Allegiance.

OffenseCitationDescription
One or More Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMTs)INA 101(f)(3)8 CFR 316.10(b)(2)(i), (iv) Conviction or admission of one or more CIMTs (other than political offense), except for one petty offense
Aggregate Sentence of 5 Years or MoreINA 101(f)(3)8 CFR 316.10(b)(2)(ii), (iv)Conviction of two or more offenses with combined sentence of 5 years or more (other than political offense)
Controlled Substance ViolationINA 101(f)(3)8 CFR 316.10(b)(2)(iii), (iv)Violation of any law on controlled substances, except for simple possession of 30g or less of marijuana
Incarceration for 180 DaysINA 101(f)(7)8 CFR 316.10(b)(2)(v)Incarceration for a total period of 180 days or more, except political offense and ensuing confinement abroad
False Testimony under OathINA 101(f)(6)8 CFR 316.10(b)(2)(vi)False testimony for the purpose of obtaining any immigration benefit
Prostitution OffensesINA 101(f)(3)8 CFR 316.10(b)(2)(vii)Engaged in prostitution, attempted or procured to import prostitution, or received proceeds from prostitution
Smuggling of a PersonINA 101(f)(3)8 CFR 316.10(b)(2)(viii)Involved in smuggling of a person to enter or try to enter the United States in violation of law
Polygamy INA 101(f)(3)8 CFR 316.10(b)(2)(ix)Practiced or is practicing polygamy (the custom of having more than one spouse at the same time)
Gambling OffensesINA 101(f)(4)–(5)8 CFR 316.10(b)(2)(x)–(xi)Two or more gambling offenses or derives income principally from illegal gambling activities
Habitual DrunkardINA 101(f)(1)8 CFR 316.10(b)(2)(xii)Is or was a habitual drunkard
Two or More Convictions for Driving Under the Influence (DUI)INA 101(f)Two or more convictions for driving under the influence during the statutory period
Failure to Support DependentsINA 101(f)8 CFR 316.10(b)(3)(i)Willful failure or refusal to support dependents, unless extenuating circumstances are established
AdulteryINA 101(f)8 CFR 316.10(b)(3)(ii)Extramarital affair tending to destroy existing marriage, unless extenuating circumstances are established
Unlawful ActsINA 101(f)8 CFR 316.10(b)(3)(iii)Unlawful acts that adversely reflect upon GMC, unless extenuating circumstances are established

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