Criminal convictions and how they impact your immigration status

As long and as involved of a process as it might have been to get a visa or permanent residency permit issued to you, you probably don’t want to do anything that would put that hard work to waste. If you commit either a misdemeanor of felony in the United States (U.S.), you risk either having your legal status downgraded or even being deported.

Congress first drafted a list of crimes and other non-criminal acts that would qualify an immigrant for removal from the U.S. back in 1988. At that time, some of the aggravated felony convictions that would get you deported were crimes like the trafficking of firearms or drugs or murder. Nearly 30 years later, though, that list has grown to include offenses such as contempt of court theft, fraud, battery, and consensual sex with minors. Those convicted of crimes that violate moral turpitude, such as is the case with child abuse, tax evasion, concealed weapons, fraud and perjury charges, may not just wind up getting deported. Instead, the convictions for these types of crimes may get them forever prohibited from reentering the country again.

While not every felony conviction leads to an immigrant being deported, most all aggravated offenses do. How your immigration status is handled is largely discretionary. Both the seriousness of your crime and the circumstances surrounding your legal presence in the country will play a large role in determining what happens next.

For example, someone who is a permanent resident in the country may both face deportation and be subject to detention while removal proceedings are ongoing. If permanently removed from the country, the PR may be forever barred from seeking reentry again. In addition, they may face a 20 year sentence if they attempt to illegally return to the U.S. in the future.

In contrast, someone granted asylum may only be deported if their crime is deemed to be remarkably serious or an aggravated offense. If allowed to stay in the country, that individual may forever be prohibited from obtaining permanent residency here.

If you’ve been charged with a crime and haven’t yet been granted United States citizenship, then a Nashville immigration-related criminal defense attorney can advise you of potential penalties and defenses in your legal case.

Source: FindLaw, “How Does a Felony Affect Immigration Status?,” accessed Sep. 21, 2017