This week’s FYI Friday covers the false statements bar to establishing good moral character.
False Statements Bar to Good Moral Character
Issue: When does a false statement create a good moral character bar to eligibility for U.S. citizenship?
Background: Good moral character is required, but not defined by the government. It is the applicant’s burden to establish proof of good moral character. USCIS interpretations state that good moral character is “measured by the standard of the community, but does not necessarily require the highest degree of moral excellence.”
Specific Mandatory Bars to Good Moral Character
Instead of defining what is required to prove good moral character, the government has developed a list of bars to good moral character. One such mandatory bar to establishing good moral character for naturalization is the giving of false testimony for the purpose of obtaining a benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
An applicant’s willful or innocent lack of disclosure on an N-400, followed by sworn testimony that the contents are true becomes “false testimony under oath,” which is one way to be found to lack good moral character. A false statement also could be an oral statement made at a naturalization interview, in response to an officer’s question.
Scope of False Testimony
In order to be a false statement barring good moral character, it must be made with the subjective intent to secure an immigration benefit. The false testimony does not necessarily have to relate to a naturalization application, but can be testimony that relates to obtaining any immigration benefit even if done in the distant past. The false testimony need not be material in order to preclude a person from showing good moral character.
Remedying False Statements
Thoroughly review statements made to USCIS on the N-400 application, and all previous applications to USCIS. If an applicant is unsure of statements made on previous applications, utilize a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
If an applicant makes a false statement, he or she should be able to avoid triggering the false testimony statutory bar if he or she makes a voluntary and timely retraction of the false statement.