Thursday, August 19, 2010

COMMANDMENT #4 of Applying for Naturalization: Thou Shall Feed Your Children (wherever they are)

Last post we discussed the definition of good moral character and how being married to more than one spouse at a time will affect a good moral character determination. As noted earlier, having good moral character is one of several requirements an applicant must meet before becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. What constitutes good moral character, which is not defined by statute, has been interpreted by case law to mean behavior that meets the moral standard of the average citizen in the applicant’s community.

There are various factors that will affect a determination of good moral character. Section 101(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) has a list of factors that would prevent a person from showing good moral character. One factor that can affect a good moral character determination includes not financially supporting the applicant’s children (or spouse) - especially those not living with the applicant.

If the applicant has children, that are under 18 years of age, during the qualifying time as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) (whether 3 or 5 years), then the applicant must come prepared to the interview to show that he or she has provided financially for their welfare (whether court-ordered or not). This is especially true if the applicant has children living abroad. In these cases the applicant must bring to their interview proof of support which can include a notarized letter from the former spouse or guardian, or if the children are old enough, letters from the children discussing the support that they have received. Also, the applicant must obtain records of money transfers, or wires that went to provide for their children.

Failing to pay court-ordered child support or alimony payments may also affect a determination of good moral character. Applicants should come prepared to the interview by bringing documents such as: cancelled checks, receipts, a court or agency printout of child support payments, evidence of wage garnishments, or other documentation.

An excellent resource put out by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") is the “Guide to Naturalization”. Readers are encouraged to review this document before submitting their naturalization application.

That's it for now folks. Stay tunned for our next post: Commandment #5 - Thou Shall Not Forget Where You Came From.