A Good Moral Character Letter for Immigration is a reference letter written for a friend, family member, or associate seeking naturalization, in which the writer speaks positively about the subject’s qualities and personality.
To achieve the letter’s purpose, the reference provider should be knowledgeable enough about the character of the subject.
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 residents. 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 of good moral character, it is necessary that the individual has not committed any severe crimes. Severe crimes like crimes of moral turpitude will almost certainly disqualify a person from being of good moral character. Ideally, the good moral character consideration has a statutory period of five years. This means that the USCIS will thoroughly put 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 prior to the five-year statutory period based on their 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 carrying out assessments of all elements of the application. As part of the requirements, applicants must prove that they are of good moral character before the agency can grant their naturalization request.
For an individual to qualify as being of good moral character, such individual must have maintained, and show reason enough to believe 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 completely be without sin; the basic requirement is that their character and behavior are up to par with the standards of the populace in their community. Typically, a person with good moral character is a trustworthy and respectable individual who abides by state and federal law requirements. The USCIS decides the Good Moral Character requirement on a case-by-case basis.
Need for Good Moral Character for Immigration
Some immigration situations do not explicitly require the demonstration of good moral character; however, the decision-maker will still consider it during the evaluation of the application. For example, in applications for immigrant or non-immigrant visas, certain applicant details – like previous crimes or immigration violations – that represent grounds for inadmissibility can also be adopted to evaluate good moral character.
On the other hand, certain situations specifically require that applicants present proof of good moral character.
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 moral character during their time as LPRs in the United States. The requirement is a clean record for the five years (three years, if applying as a spouse to a US citizen) preceding the application. Falsifying records as a lawful permanent resident can lead to grave consequences like denying entry after a trip abroad.
For USCIS immigration applications
Certain situations and immigration applications require the provision of proof of good moral character. One of such situations is if an applicant is applying for a US visa, due to being a victim of crime or abuse. Another situation is the case of a person who has been unlawfully present in the United States and is requesting a waiver of inadmissibility to become eligible for entry again. It is a requirement for such applicants to provide proof of good moral character before their application can be approved.
In immigration court proceedings
In circumstances where deportation or removal from the US is imminent, the individual has several reasons to request for a stay of deportation when putting together a defense. One of such reasons is having proof of good moral character. This proof will help strengthen the applicant’s case and can help to convince the immigration judge to cancel or suspend the removal or deportation. However, if the court does not cancel the removal or deportation, the proof of good moral character can still influence the court’s decision to afford the applicant a voluntary departure, if requested. Voluntary departure can be highly beneficial because it comes with alleviated consequences for the subject.
When a good moral character is not needed
As surprising as it may seem, not only do certain situations not require proof of good moral character but presenting this proof in these situations can be detrimental to the application for a US naturalization.
If an individual’s application for US naturalization is based on major mental abuse or trauma that they have faced, presenting evidence of significant accomplishments around the period of abuse can damage the applicant’s case.
Likewise, a person filing for asylum consideration after failing to do so within a year of getting to the United States would be damaging their case further if they present proof of other undertakings within the period of their residency. In these instances, putting more emphasis on the obstacles and trauma they have faced and explaining why it is necessary that they continue to live in the United States will be more beneficial to their case.
When seeking asylum in the United States, it is not necessary to prove good moral 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.
The nature of an immigration case determines whether the applicant needs to present proof of good moral character or not. Preparing this proof requires much effort and resources. That is why it is highly advised that the applicant find out the exact nature of their case and its requirements before devoting their resources to gathering evidence of good moral character.
Bars to a Good Moral Character
The existence of a criminal record and an applicant’s involvement in certain undesirable activities can constitute “bars” to their citizenship application process. Depending on the gravity of the crime, these bars can cause a delay or permanent block in 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 wanton lack of moral character.
Some of the acts that USCIS considers as bars to a good moral character include:
- 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 US Selected Service System when required
- Gambling offenses
- Pending probation, parole, or suspended sentence
- Shoplifting or pilfering
- Trafficking aliens into the United States
- Up to 180 days in jail during the past five years
Individuals with a murder conviction can never become citizens of the United States. In addition, persons convicted of aggravated felony like armed robbery, drug trafficking, child pornography, bribery, etc., are also permanently barred from becoming US citizens.
How to Overcome Bars to a Good Moral Character
When dealing with a type of immigration application that requires proof of good moral character, the burden is on the applicant to overcome any bars that may cause a delay in the process. An applicant with a minor crime on their record that may indicate a lack of good moral character may consider waiting out the five-year statutory period before putting forward an application. In addition to waiting out the statutory period, the individual must also be ready to demonstrate an improved character and conduct.
He can do that through any of the following means:
- A personal statement from the applicant describing their life, work, family, and volunteer activities
- Letter from applicant’s religious organization describing their participation and importance to the group
- Reference letter from employer attesting to work ethic
- Reference letter from places where the applicant has volunteered
These letters should provide detailed positive examples of the applicant’s lifestyle and contribution to society.
In addition to the above, being completely honest and thorough during the application process and the interview with the USCIS personnel can help score additional points. On the other hand, not telling the absolute truth can cause additional problems, and will most definitely indicate a lack of good moral character.
How to Write a Good Moral Character Letter Immigration
Every now and then, a person might find themselves faced with the important task of writing a Good Moral Character Letter for a friend, an associate, or a family member. The writer must compose a detailed and convincing letter to considerably improve the chances of success of the applicant’s immigration application.
The guide below provides valuable instructions on how to write a good moral character letter for immigration:
Give appropriate introductions
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 feature 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.
Talk about the applicant’s character
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.
How the applicant’s character has helped the writer in some way, their knack for helping others, volunteer activities, etc.
The examples should apply to the main reason for the letter and 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.
A description of the writer’s long-term or frequent contact with the applicant may also be provided. This can help provide more credibility and reassure the recipient that the writer indeed knows the applicant very well.
An example of such description, as a past or present employer of the applicant, is:
To discuss the working relationship, details of the employment, and the responsibilities of their position, skills, work ethic, integrity, etc.
Conclude by complimenting the applicant
The concluding part of the letter should feature a compliment for the applicant and a reaffirmation of their suitability for citizenship status. It should also feature an expression of gratitude to the recipient for the consideration of the application, followed by a statement indicating the willingness and availability of the writer to provide more information if needed. The writer’s full name and contact information must also be provided. Though not required, it is a good idea to notarize the letter. This serves further to verify the identity and signature of the writer.
Here are some samples of good moral character letters for immigration:
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 US citizen. I have known [Name] for four years since he started working as an attendant at my grocery store.
I can most sincerely 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 dependable, so much so that I promoted him to a supervisory role in just over a year of joining my team. He improves the business flow with his resourcefulness and energetic nature and is well-loved by his colleagues. Unknowingly to him, I have scrutinized him several times, and I have never found him wanting in any area.
Perhaps, the only thing he cherishes more than his excellent character is his family. He is father to two delightful boys and husband to a loving wife. I also reside in the same neighborhood that [Name] does, 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 the other. 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 the American value 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 could go on and on about [Name], but I think I have made my point. 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.
Sample Character Reference Letter for Immigration
To whom it may concern,
I am writing to support [insert name here]‘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 them to be very kind and upstanding people. They have supported me and other friends in times of need, and they are always happy to lend a helping hand to anyone, even a stranger. They are very involved in our local community, frequently attending local events and helping neighbors unprompted.
[Name] is also very involved in his work as [insert job here]. They have been a successful employee for many years and from what I can see, they are extremely dedicated to their job. I have known them to put in extra hours on nights and weekends, even when they may not have needed to. They are also very dedicated to their family and always prioritize spending time with them.
I have been very fortunate to know [name] as a friend, and I am confident that should their citizenship application be accepted, they would make an incredible addition to this country. Please feel free to contact me if you have more questions.
Good Moral Character Letter Immigration Template
To whom it may concern,
This letter is to support [insert name here]‘s pending citizenship application. I am a [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 them to be very diligent worker and kind-hearted person who really cares about those around them. At work, they always go out of their way to help others and are very dedicated to the team as a whole. They’ve been very successful in their work overall and have been an invaluable addition to the company.
Additionally, [name] is very involved socially in our local community. They are a beloved friend and neighbor to many people in our town, and they frequently attend community events. They’ve also participated in volunteer work and have gone out of their way to help others during times of need. They’re also a great role model for their family and are committed to providing a good life for their children.
[Name] is a wonderful member of our community and I highly recommend they become a naturalized citizen as soon as possible. Please contact me if you have any other questions.
Following are some free downloadable good moral character letter immigration templates for you:
Demonstration of good moral character is an essential component of an application for citizenship. Helping a friend, family member, or associate draft a convincing Good Moral Character Letter Immigration can differentiate between a successful citizenship application and an unsuccessful one. A good moral character letter for immigration written with clarity and precise details and examples is more likely to get the desired result. In addition, it is important that prospective applicants for citizenship carefully review the good moral character status requirements and start working toward it because being in good moral character standing is a long-term process that requires deliberate planning and execution.