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Immigration Law

USCIS Policy Alert: Conditional Bar to Good Moral Character for Unlawful Acts

USCIS, Dec. 13, 2019

"U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating policy guidance in the USCIS
Policy Manual on unlawful acts during the applicable statutory period that reflect adversely on
moral character and may prevent an applicant from meeting the good moral character (GMC)
requirement for naturalization.1

Background

An applicant who has committed, was convicted of, or was imprisoned for an unlawful act
during the applicable statutory period may be found to lack GMC if the act adversely reflects on
his or her moral character, unless the applicant can demonstrate extenuating circumstances.2 An
act is unlawful if it violates a criminal or civil law of the jurisdiction where it was committed.

The regulation addressing “unlawful acts” does not require the applicant to have been charged
with or convicted of the offense. This guidance, contained in Volume 12 of the Policy Manual, is
controlling and supersedes any prior guidance.

Policy Highlights

• 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.

Citation

Volume 12: Citizenship and Naturalization, Part F, Good Moral Character, Chapter 5,
Conditional Bars for Acts in Statutory Period [12 USCIS-PM F.5].

1 See INA 101(f). See 8 CFR 316.10(b)(3)(iii).

2 See INA 101(f). See 8 CFR 316.10(b)(3)(iii). For cases arising in the Ninth Circuit, in addition to extenuating
circumstances which precede or are contemporaneous with the act, USCIS must also consider and weigh all factors
relevant to the determination of GMC, which include education, family background, employment history, financial
status and lack of criminal record. See Hussein v. Barrett, 820 F.3d 1083 (9th Cir. 2016)."