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How an Arrest or Conviction Affects Immigration Status

The fact that a potential immigrant has engaged in criminal activity can have far-reaching, negative consequences for him or her. A person’s immigration status and ability to apply for a visa can be affected by an arrest or a conviction, even for what some may consider minor crimes. A delay in a visa application can mean a cancelled trip or a missed semester from school.

Other than the risk of conviction and having a criminal record, immigrants who find themselves in legal trouble can lose the ability to stay in the United States. Even immigrants who are in the country legally at the time of the arrest are subject to what are called collateral consequences, which are changes to their immigration status based on a conviction in an unrelated criminal case.

When a person is arrested, he or she gets fingerprinted and otherwise processed through a national system, National Crime Information Center (NCIC), and therefore, if he or she applies for a change in immigration status or a visa, the arrest can raise a red flag and delay the application. If convicted for a crime following the arrest, there is a higher risk of deportation. Plea bargains, by which the immigrant pleads guilty to a crime in return for a more lenient sentence, are also counted against the immigrant much in the same way as a conviction.

Lawful permanent residents can be deported after a criminal conviction much in the same way as an undocumented immigrant, and the Supreme Court has held that a person’s criminal defense attorney is required to advise him or her of this fact. If your defense attorney failed to advise you of this fact, you can appeal your conviction on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel, and ask for a new trial.

While there are a wide range of crimes that could result in deportation, lawful permanent residents should pay attention to one class of crimes in particular – crimes involving moral turpitude. A lawful permanent resident becomes eligible for deportation if he or she commits a crime involving moral turpitude within five years of entry into the country, and receives a sentence of at least one year imprisonment.

Crimes involving moral turpitude are not defined under United States immigration law, and can be a property crime such as theft, or a crime against a person such as murder or aggravated battery. It is up to a court to determine if the crime a lawful permanent resident is convicted of qualifies as a crime of moral turpitude, and can therefore be the basis for deportation.

Contact us for Legal Assistance with Your Immigration Issues

In some cases, the consequences of a criminal conviction are less serious and simply result in a delay in the processing of a visa. However, for other immigrants, a criminal conviction could result in deportation. Therefore, if you were arrested or convicted in relation to a criminal matter, and you are worried about how that will affect your immigration status, you need to talk to an experienced immigration attorney. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.


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