Chapter 3 - Evidence and the Record

A. Applicant Testimony

Issues relevant to the good moral character (GMC) requirement may arise at any time during the naturalization interview. The officer’s questions during the interview should elicit a complete record of any criminal, unlawful, or questionable activity in which the applicant has ever engaged regardless of whether that information eventually proves to be material to the GMC determination.

The officer should take into consideration the education level of the applicant and his or her knowledge of the English language. The officer may rephrase questions and supplement the inquiry with additional questions to better ensure that the applicant understands the proceedings. [1] 

The officer must take a sworn statement from an applicant when the applicant admits committing an offense for which the applicant has never been formally charged, indicted, arrested or convicted. [2] 

B. Court Dispositions

In general, an officer has the authority to request the applicant to provide a court disposition for any criminal offense committed in the United States or abroad to properly determine whether the applicant meets the GMC requirement. USCIS requires applicants to provide court dispositions certified by the pertinent jurisdiction for any offense committed during the statutory period. In addition, USCIS may request any additional evidence that may affect a determination regarding the applicant’s GMC. The burden is on the applicant to show that an offense does not prevent him or her from establishing GMC. 

An applicant is required to provide a certified court disposition for any arrest involving the following offenses and circumstances, regardless of whether the arrest resulted in a conviction:

  • Arrest for criminal act committed during the statutory period;

  • Arrest that occurred on or after November 29, 1990, that may be an aggravated felony; [3] 

  • Arrest for murder;

  • Arrest for any offense that would render the applicant removable;

  • Arrest for offenses outside the statutory period, if when combined with other offenses inside the statutory period, the offense would preclude the applicant from establishing GMC; and

  • Arrest for crime where the applicant would still be on probation at the time of adjudication of the naturalization application or may have been incarcerated for 180 days during the statutory period.

These procedures are not intended to limit the discretion of any officer in requesting documentation that the officer needs to properly assess an applicant’s GMC.

In cases where a court disposition or police record is not available, the applicant must provide original or certified confirmation that the record is not available from the applicable law enforcement agency or court.

C. Failure to Respond to Request for Evidence

In cases where the initial naturalization examination has already been conducted, the officer should adjudicate the naturalization application on the merits where the applicant fails to respond to a request for additional evidence. [4] The officer should not deny the application for lack of prosecution after the initial naturalization examination. [5] 


[^ 1] See Part E, English and Civics Testing and Exceptions, Chapter 2, English and Civics Testing [12 USCIS-PM E.2], for guidance on rephrasing questions.

[^ 2] See 8 CFR 316.10(b)(2)(iv). See Chapter 2, Adjudicative Factors, Section E, Admission of Certain Criminal Acts [12 USCIS-PM F.2(E)]. 

[^ 3] See INA 101(a)(43). See Chapter 4, Permanent Bars to Good Moral Character (GMC), Section B, Aggravated Felony [12 USCIS-PM F.4(B)].

[^ 4] See Part B, Naturalization Examination, Chapter 4, Results of the Naturalization Examination [12 USCIS-PM B.4], for guidance on decisions on the application, to include cases where the applicant fails to respond.

[^ 5] See INA 335(e). See 8 CFR 335.7.


Legal Authorities

INA 101(a)(48)(A) - Definition of conviction

INA 101(f) - Definition of good moral character

INA 316(e), 8 CFR 316.10 - Good moral character 


Appendix: History of Acquiring Citizenship under INA 320 for Children of U.S. Citizens who are Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, U.S. Government Employees, or their Spouses

Before October 29, 2019, USCIS considered children of members of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. government employees, who were stationed outside of the United States, to meet the requirement of “is residing in” the United States for the purpose of acquiring citizenship under INA 320.[1] This interpretation was consistent with the definition of “residence” for purposes of naturalization under INA 316.[2] Based on this treatment of U.S. government employees and their children in the context of naturalization under INA 316, USCIS determined that “residing in the United States” for purposes of acquisition of citizenship under INA 320 should likewise be interpreted to include children of U.S. military and government employees stationed outside of the United States who were residing with their parents.[3]

This interpretation, however, was inconsistent with other provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), including the definition of “residence” at INA 101(a)(33) and language in INA 322(a) and INA 322(d), which suggested that the citizenship of military children residing outside of the United States should be considered under that provision rather than under INA 320. Effective October 29, 2019, USCIS amended its policy guidance to address these concerns, and determined that children of members of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. government employees stationed outside of the United States would not be eligible for citizenship acquisition under INA 320.[4]

On March 26, 2020, the Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act was enacted,[5] amending INA 320, so that a child residing with his or her U.S. citizen parent, who is stationed outside of the United States as a member of the U.S. armed forces or a U.S. government employee, or is residing in marital union with a member of the U.S. armed forces or a U.S. government employee who is stationed outside of the United States, acquires citizenship under INA 320 if all requirements of INA 320(c) and INA 320(a)(1)-(2) are met. In line with the statute, USCIS rescinds its previous guidance, clarifying that these children are eligible to acquire citizenship under INA 320 if all other requirements under INA 320 are met.

The amendment to INA 320 applies to children who were under the age of 18 on March 26, 2020.


[^ 1] Even though the child of a member of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. government employee stationed outside of the United States may be eligible to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship under INA 322 since he or she resides outside of the United States, USCIS interpreted the child to meet residency requirements under INA 320 as well, which formerly required the child to be residing in the United States with his or her parent to acquire citizenship.

[^ 2] For example, U.S. government employees, including members of the U.S. armed forces, are eligible to apply for an exception to the continuous residence requirement for naturalization under INA 316 as long as their residency outside of the United States was on behalf of the U.S. government. See INA 316(b). See INA 316(a). See Part D, General Naturalization Requirements, Chapter 3, Continuous Residence [12 USCIS-PM D.3].

[^ 3] See Policy Manual Technical Update, Child Citizenship Act and Children of U.S. Government Employees Residing Abroad (July 20, 2015); and Acquisition of Citizenship by Children of U.S. Military and Government Employees Stationed Abroad under Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), No. 103, issued May 6, 2004.

[^ 4] See USCIS Policy Alert, Defining “Residence” in Statutory Provisions Related to Citizenship [PA-2019-05] (PDF, 308.45 KB). This Policy Alert has been superseded by Policy Manual updates to reflect changes made under Pub. L. 116-133 (PDF).

[^ 5] See Pub. L. 116-133 (PDF) (March 26, 2020).


Technical Update - Replacing the Term “Alien”

This technical update replaces all instances of the term “alien” with “noncitizen” or other appropriate terms throughout the Policy Manual where possible, as used to refer to a person who meets the definition provided in INA 101(a)(3) [“any person not a citizen or national of the United States”].

Technical Update - Moving the Adjudicator’s Field Manual Content into the USCIS Policy Manual

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating and incorporating relevant Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) content into the USCIS Policy Manual. As that process is ongoing, USCIS has moved any remaining AFM content to its corresponding USCIS Policy Manual Part, in PDF format, until relevant AFM content has been properly incorporated into the USCIS Policy Manual. To the extent that a provision in the USCIS Policy Manual conflicts with remaining AFM content or Policy Memoranda, the updated information in the USCIS Policy Manual prevails. To find remaining AFM content, see the crosswalk (PDF, 327.05 KB) between the AFM and the Policy Manual.

Technical Update - Replacing the Term “Foreign National”

This technical update replaces all instances of the term “foreign national” with “alien” throughout the Policy Manual as used to refer to a person who meets the definition provided in INA 101(a)(3) [“any person not a citizen or national of the United States”].

Technical Update - Certified Court Dispositions

This technical update adds language addressing existing policy on circumstances where an applicant is required to provide a certified court disposition.

POLICY ALERT - Comprehensive Citizenship and Naturalization Policy Guidance

USCIS is issuing updated and comprehensive citizenship and naturalization policy guidance in the new USCIS Policy Manual.

Read More