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A Criminal History can Affect Your Immigration Chances

When you are an immigrant seeking legal permanent residency or citizenship in the United States, there are many issues and questions that may come up when you are in the process of submitting your application. One issue that may be particularly worrisome is how a criminal record can affect a person’s application for legal permanent residency or U.S. citizenship.

Generally, having a criminal history can affect your application and does lower your chances of being approved for either permanent residency or citizenship. This usually depends on the nature of your crime, and in some cases how long ago the conviction was entered. In addition, as we have noted before, if a person already has permanent residency, being convicted of a crime can lead to the revocation of that status and the beginning of deportation proceedings.

Convictions for some crimes result in a person being temporarily ineligible for U.S. citizenship for a period of time, while others result in permanent ineligibility. If a person is convicted of murder or a crime that is considered an aggravated felony, the person is permanently banned from becoming a U.S. citizen. On the other hand, convictions for less serious crimes may result in a temporary ban of three to five years, after which time the person can apply for citizenship.

Being granted citizenship is still a matter of discretion on the part of the government, this means that even if you were only convicted of a crime that results in temporary ineligibility, you may still be denied citizenship based on your background.

Lawful permanent resident applicants who have been convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude and crimes involving the trafficking of a controlled substance are ineligible to receive a green card. There are other criminal offenses that can bar an applicant from receiving permanent residency. In some cases, applicants who are closely related to a person with a conviction for trafficking controlled substances are also considered ineligible for permanent residency if they received financial support that was from the proceeds of the trafficking.

Immigrants seeking either permanent residency or citizenship should remember that they are required to disclose all their criminal history, even convictions for crimes in other countries. Failing to make the appropriate disclosures, and then signing the application saying you provided accurate information could result in more legal troubles for the applicant.

If your criminal convictions were in another country and a result of political prosecution, you may be eligible for a purely political offense exception from ineligibility. It is important to discuss this kind of criminal history with an attorney. Applicants should remember that for immigration purposes, guilty pleas and other forms of criminal dispositions can count as convictions.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

If you have been convicted of crimes in the United States or in another country and are thinking about applying for permanent residency or U.S. citizenship, you need to contact an experienced immigration attorney to discuss how the convictions could affect your application. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.

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.