Anyone trying to become a naturalized citizen of the United States has to follow certain requirements. One of those requirements is having “good moral character.” If U.S. authorities do not believe you have good moral character, they may reject your naturalization application.

How does U.S. law define good moral character? Here is an explanation.

Behaviors that will block naturalization

When you apply for naturalization, you have to prove you are a person with good moral character. Under U.S. law, there are certain behaviors considered so serious that you will be permanently blocked from being naturalized.

There is a list of these behaviors, called permanent bars. The list includes serious crimes, such as murder, child pornography offenses, trafficking of firearms or drugs, and certain types of document fraud.

There are also behaviors that might lead to a temporary block. These conditional bars are less serious, but if U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) discovers you committed one of these offenses during your statutory period, it may lead to your application for naturalization being denied.

These possible behaviors include certain drug crimes, false testimony, adultery and being drunk all the time.

USCIS adds to list of ‘unlawful acts’

In December of 2019, USCIS added 15 new “unlawful acts” they believe demonstrate a person does not have good moral character. This means these 15 behaviors could lead to a rejected naturalization application. The new unlawful acts are:

  • Bail jumping
  • Bank fraud
  • Conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance
  • Failure to file or pay taxes
  • False claim to U.S. citizenship
  • Falsification of records
  • Forgery uttering
  • Insurance fraud
  • Obstruction of justice
  • Sexual assault
  • Social Security fraud
  • Unlawful harassment
  • Unlawful registration to vote
  • Unlawful voting
  • Violation of a U.S. embargo

The agency made another addition. Now, two or more drunk driving convictions could be a conditional bar for naturalization.

U.S. immigration authorities already had a lot of power in the naturalization process. These new rules mean they have the ability to deny naturalization applications for even more low-level crimes and behaviors.