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Will Criminal Convictions Affect Immigration Status in the United States?

In the United States, every September 17th is deemed Constitution Day, or Citizenship Day, marking the day in 1787 when the U.S. Constitutional Convention officially signed the constitution. The national holiday has the dual purpose of also celebrating the nation’s citizens.

While it is commonly known that immigration is not easy in any country, in terms of the United States, criminal convictions can block the path to legal immigration and citizenship. Those who hold a status other than citizen (undocumented immigrant, resident, and non-immigrant visa holders) not only face the same criminal consequences as citizens, they also face consequences in immigration court.

What Crimes Will Harm Immigration Status?

According to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), not every crime will immediately result in danger to a person’s immigration status, but most immigration applications require applicants to report any and all troubles they have had with the law in the past. An immigrant’s disclosed criminal history, as well as any crimes committed in the United States, could become a huge barrier for them and easily place them in inadmissibility or deportation proceedings.

It should be noted that even small crimes can hurt an individual’s immigration status, as immigration law does not require that an immigrant receive an actual conviction in a court of law. Immigration law categorizes crimes that will negatively impact immigration status into two categories:

  • Crimes of moral turpitude: There is no cut and dry definition for “crimes of moral turpitude,” rather it is a blanket term for many types of crime. These are crimes small enough that a court would not view them very seriously but may be considered grounds for inadmissibility or deportation. Simply put, this term refers to any crime that works contrary to justice and is thought to reveal a lack of honesty and good morals.
  • Aggravated felonies: These crimes are more severe than those of moral turpitude. They include sexual abuse, drug offenses, theft, weapon trafficking, and murder. As a rule of thumb, if the crime is violent and punishable by at least one year of imprisonment, it is considered an aggravated felony.

Some other examples of crimes that hinder immigration include but are not limited to:

  • Assault
  • Arson
  • Domestic violence
  • Engagement in prostitution
  • Trespassing
  • Perjury
  • Possession or distribution of illegal substances
  • Terrorism
  • Sabotage
  • Espionage
  • Torture

Excluding the most serious crimes — such as murder and torture — waivers are available to immigrants, allowing them the chance to make a case as to why they should not be labeled inadmissible or deported. But these waivers carry many stipulations, often requiring proof of rehabilitation or the like.

Hire a Skilled Lawyer

Trying to navigate the immigration process on your own is difficult enough when you do not have a criminal record; it is only further complicated by run-ins with law enforcement. Do not face the immigration process and the legal process on your own. Hire a skilled defense attorney to give your case a strong fighting chance in court.

Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm, P.A.’s legal team has over 100 years of collective experience representing clients facing criminal charges. With experience handling hundreds of jury trials, we may be able to help if you are facing charges for a Title IX violation, misdemeanor, or white-collar crime. We believe that everyone has the right to fair legal representation, so we will do our best to strengthen your case.

Contact Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm, P.A. at (612) 444-5020 to discuss your case today, free of charge and obligation.

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