A letter attesting to someone’s good character is a reference letter written for a friend, colleague, or employee seeking naturalization in which the writer speaks positively about the subject’s qualities and personality.
The reference provider must be sufficiently familiar with the applicant in order for the letter to serve its intended purpose.
Applying to become a citizen in a new country can be a tedious process requiring extensive paperwork and interviews. For applicants in the United States, an important part of this process is demonstrating in their application that they have been good and upright residents during the period they have been in the country as a visa holder or legal permanent resident.
As stated in the USCIS Policy Manual (Part F), for use as part of the naturalization process, “good moral character” implies that an individual’s behavior “measures up to the standards of average citizens of the community in which the applicant resides.”
For a person to be considered of a law abiding and moral, it is necessary that they have not committed any severe crimes. Severe crimes, like crimes of moral turpitude, will almost certainly disqualify a person from having good character. Ideally, this condition has a statutory period of five years. This means that the USCIS will thoroughly take into consideration any contravention of the GMC requirement within the last five years before the citizenship application.
However, the USCIS can also consider any period before the five-year statutory period based on its discretion.
What is a Good Moral Character
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) handles the naturalization process in the United States. They are in charge of assessing all elements of the application. As part of the requirements, applicants must prove that they are of good character before the agency can grant their naturalization request.
For an individual to qualify as being of good moral character, he or she must have maintained and shown sufficient belief that he or she will continue to maintain the requirements of being a law-abiding member of society. The expectation is not that the applicant should be without sin; the basic requirement is that their character and behavior must meet the standards of the general public in their community.
Typically, a person is considered to have good character if they are trustworthy, respectable, and abide by state and federal laws. The USCIS decides the requirement on a case-by-case basis.
Need for Letter of Good Character for Immigration
Some immigration categories do not explicitly require the demonstration of good conduct; however, the immigration officer will still consider it during the evaluation of the application. In applications for immigrant or non-immigrant visas, for instance, specific applicant information—like prior crimes or immigration violations—that constitute grounds for inadmissibility can also be used to assess a candidate’s moral character.
On the other hand, certain situations specifically require that applicants present a letter of good conduct.
These situations are discussed below:
For lawful permanent residents (LPRs)
The USCIS requires all lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who wish to submit applications for naturalization to provide proof of good character during their time as LPRs in the United States. The requirement means a clean record for the five years (three years if applying as the spouse of a U.S. citizen) preceding the application. Falsifying records can lead to grave consequences, like having entry denied after a trip abroad.
For USCIS immigration applications
If an applicant is applying for a U.S. visa, due to being a victim of crime or abuse or as a person who has been unlawfully present in the United States and is requesting a waiver of inadmissibility to become eligible for entry again, then it is a requirement to provide proof of good conduct before their application can be approved.
Immigration cases in court
In circumstances where deportation or removal from the U.S. is imminent, the individual has several reasons to request that they not be deported. Such applicants may use evidence of their compliance with the law as a form of defense. This proof will help strengthen their case and can help convince the immigration judge to cancel or suspend the order for removal or deportation.
The judge can convert the deportation order to a voluntary return, which can be a better situation than a forced removal. A deportation order may prevent someone from coming to the U.S. for up to ten years or make them ineligible for certain immigration benefits. In the event of a voluntary departure, they may be able to return to the U.S. much sooner.
When is a Certificate of Good Conduct not Needed
As surprising as it may seem, not only do certain situations not require a character certificate, but providing such proof in these situations can be detrimental to the application for naturalization.
If an individual’s application for naturalization is based on major mental abuse or trauma, presenting evidence of significant accomplishments during the period of abuse can damage the applicant’s case.
A person who applies for asylum after failing to do so within a year of arriving in the country would further weaken their case if they provided evidence of other commitments made during their stay in the country. In these instances, putting more emphasis on the obstacles and traumas they have faced and explaining why they must continue to live in the United States will be more beneficial.
When seeking asylum in the United States, it is not necessary to prove good character. Rather than wasting time trying to prove this, an applicant should focus more on gathering other evidence that would specifically help the asylum request.
Whether or not the applicant must provide a certificate of good conduct depends on the category of the immigration application. Preparing this document requires effort and resources. That is why it is highly advised that the applicant find out the requirements for their immigration application before devoting their resources to obtaining this document.
Obstacles to Qualifying as Person of Good Moral Character
A criminal history and involvement in particular undesirable activities can be barriers to a person’s application for citizenship. Depending on the gravity of the crime, these roadblocks can cause a delay or a permanent ineligibility of the applicant’s request for naturalization and can even be enough grounds for deportation. These crimes are mostly crimes of turpitude, i.e., crimes that indicate depravity or a willful lack of morality.
USCIS cites the following behaviors as examples of those that could be barriers to being unable to prove good character:
- Aggravated felony conviction
- Chronic drunkenness
- Contravention of Controlled Substance Act
- Crimes against a human with intent to harm
- Defaulting on court-mandated child support or alimony payments
- Duplicitous green card activity or falsification of evidence to obtain an immigration benefit
- Failure to enlist with the U.S. Selected Service System when required
- Gambling offenses
- Pending probation, parole, or suspended sentence
- Shoplifting or pilfering
- Trafficking aliens into the United States
- Jail sentence of up to 180 days during the past five years
- Individuals with a murder conviction can never become citizens of the United States. In addition, persons convicted of aggravated felonies like armed robbery, drug trafficking, child pornography, bribery, etc., are also permanently barred from becoming U.S. citizens.
How to Demonstrate Good Conduct for Immigration Purposes
If the immigration application requires proof of good character, the burden is on the applicant to overcome any obstacles that may cause a delay in the process. An applicant with a minor crime on their record may consider waiting until the five-year statutory period is over. In addition to the statutory period, the individual must also demonstrate improved behavior.
He can do that through the following means:
- A personal statement from the applicant describing their life, work, family, and volunteer activities
- Letter from the applicant’s religious organization describing their participation and importance for the community
- Reference letter from employer attesting to their work ethic
- Reference letter from places where the applicant has volunteered
These letters should provide detailed examples of the applicant’s good conduct and contribution to society.
In addition to the above, being completely honest and thorough during the application process and the interview with USCIS personnel is also important for the immigration application. On the other hand, not telling the truth can cause additional problems, and will most definitely indicate a lack of morality.
How to Write Letter of Good Moral Character for Immigration Purposes
You might find yourself faced with the important task of writing a letter for a friend, an associate, or a family member to support their immigration application. The writer must compose a detailed and convincing letter to attest to the applicant’s good character.
The guide below provides valuable instructions on how to write such a letter:
Give appropriate introduction
The letter writer should indicate the date they wrote it to help give the recipient an idea of how recent the letter is. An appropriate appellation should appear at the start of the letter. The first paragraph should include a brief background about the writer, how long they have known the applicant, and their relationship.
Mention the applicant’s good conduct
The writer can dedicate the next one or two paragraphs to describing the applicant’s personality and the remarkable qualities they possess. The descriptions need to be specific, and examples should be included if necessary. For example, how the applicant has helped the writer in some way, their helpful nature, volunteer activities, etc.
The examples should serve to convince the recipient of the goodness of the applicant.
Include other aspects
Family ties are highly regarded in the United States, and it is often because of this reason that many individuals seek citizenship. Depending on the applicant’s personal situation, the letter writer may describe their family and the close bond they share with their spouse and children.
Describe the nature of the relationship
A description of the relationship with the applicant can also be provided. This can help provide more credibility and reassure the immigration officer that the writer indeed knows the applicant very well.
For instance, if the writer is an employer of the applicant or if the applicant had worked for them in the past, then they can discuss the working relationship, details of the employment, and the responsibilities of their position, their skills, work ethic, integrity, etc.
Conclude by complimenting the applicant
In the letter’s conclusion, the applicant should be complimented and their eligibility for citizenship should be reiterated. It should express gratitude to the recipient for the consideration of the application, followed by a statement indicating the willingness and availability to provide more information if needed.
The sender’s full name and contact information must also be provided. Though not required, it is a good idea to notarize the letter. This serves to further verify the identity and signature of the writer.
Here are some samples of letters of good conduct for immigration purposes:
September 18, 2021
To Whom It May Concern,
I am providing this letter with great pleasure on behalf of my employee and good friend, [Name], who has applied to become a citizen of the United States. My name is [Name], I run a grocery store and a laundry business, and I am a U.S. citizen. I have known [Name] for four years since he started working as an attendant at my grocery store.
I can most honestly say that [Name] has been the best employee I have had since I started my business ten years ago. He is diligent, never late to work, and very good at his job. I have found him to be highly trustworthy and reliable, so much so that I promoted him to a supervisory role in just over a year after he joined my team. He improves the work flow with his resourcefulness and energetic nature and is well-loved by his colleagues. I have repeatedly reviewed his work without his knowledge and have never found him to be deficient in any way.
Perhaps the only thing he cherishes more than his excellent character is his family. He is the father of two delightful boys and the husband of a loving wife. I also reside in the same neighborhood as [Name], and I am witness to the exemplary relationship he has with his family. The entire community loves him, and he is always at the forefront of any community activity, helping one way or another. I recently learned that he runs a volunteer group in the neighborhood, where he and other young people like him help older people in the area with chores in their homes during their free time.
Even without being a citizen yet, [Name] embodies American values no less than the average American. For this reason, I believe he deserves citizenship. I feel honored, and indeed blessed, to be able to say I know this young man, not only as an employee but also as a friend. I can write endlessly about [Name], but I think I have already underscored his good character. I am available to provide any additional information you may require.
Thank you for the time taken to read my letter and for your consideration of his application.
September 18, 2021
To whom it may concern,
I am writing to support [Name]‘s application to become a citizen of our country. I am a [insert job title here] at [insert workplace here]. [Name] and I have been close friends for many years, and I have found her to be a very kind and upstanding person. She has supported me and other friends in times of need, and is always happy to lend a helping hand to anyone, even a stranger. She is very involved in our local community; she frequently attends local events and helps neighbors.
[Name] is also very involved in her work as [insert job here]. She has been a successful employee for many years, and from what I can see, she is extremely dedicated to her job. I have known her to work extra hours on nights and weekends, even when she may not have needed to. She is also very dedicated to her family and always prioritizes spending time with them.
I have been very fortunate to know [name] as a friend, and I am confident that, should her citizenship application be accepted, she would be an exemplary citizen. Please feel free to contact me if you have more questions.
September 18, 2021
To whom it may concern,
This letter is to support [insert name here]‘s pending citizenship application. I am [insert title here] at [insert workplace here], and [name] has been a colleague of mine for many years. During the time we have worked together, I have known her to be a very diligent worker and kind-hearted person who cares about those around them. At work, she is always willing to help others and is very dedicated to the team as a whole. She has been very successful in her work and has been an invaluable addition to the company.
Additionally, [name] is very involved socially in our local community. She is a beloved friend and neighbor to many people in our town, and she frequently attends community events. She has also participated in volunteer work and helps others during times of need. She is also a great role model for her family and is committed to providing a good life for her children.
[Name] is a wonderful member of our community, and I highly recommend her for naturalization. Please contact me if you have any other questions.
The following are some free downloadable templates for a letter of good behavior:
The demonstration of good moral character is an essential component of a citizenship application. A letter of good conduct written with clarity, precise details, and examples is more likely to get the desired result. A convincing letter can tremendously help a friend, employee, or colleague with their application. Additionally, since demonstrating good conduct is a lengthy process that requires deliberate planning and execution, it is crucial that prospective citizens carefully review the requirements for naturalization and begin working toward them.