How a criminal record affects immigration status

Apr 2, 2024 | Immigration

If you have been convicted of a crime in the U.S. or another country, your criminal history could negatively affect your ability to live in the U.S. if you are not a U.S. citizen. This is true even if you are a permanent resident or legally in the U.S. in another status. A criminal record could result in you being placed in removal proceedings and potentially being deported.

Convictions and Consequences to Immigration

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) outlines the types of crimes that make a person deportable or inadmissible to the U.S. Criminal convictions can carry very severe immigration consequences such as an arrest by ICE, detention, revocation of a status, and deportation. A conviction includes being sentenced by a judge or jury to jail time or some other form of punishment, pleading guilty or no contest to a charge, or receiving a suspended sentence.

There are also situations that might not appear to be a conviction under criminal law but are considered a conviction under immigration law. For example, in some states there are programs that require the defendant to enter a plea of guilty at the start of the proceedings which will later be removed if the defendant successfully completes the program. For immigration purposes, the initial guilty plea is enough to count as a conviction even if the program is successfully completed and the charge is later withdrawn. Before deciding to accept such a program, it is important to consult with an immigration attorney.

Immigration law also does not recognize expungements. Even if you have had a criminal conviction erased from state records, in most situations it will still count against you as a conviction for immigration purposes.

Two Types of Crime for Immigration Purposes

Crimes are separated into two main categories for immigration purposes: Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT) and Aggravated Felonies. Crimes of moral turpitude refer to crimes like petty theft, possession of certain controlled substances, etc. Aggravated felonies are the most serious crimes which include murder, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, drug offenses, or any other violent crimes for which the punishment is at least one year of prison time. Crimes of Moral turpitude and Aggravated felonies have particular consequences for immigration purposes.

How Siri & Glimstad Can Help

If you are worried that your criminal history could make you deportable or inadmissible, consult the experienced immigration lawyers at Siri & Glimstad.

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