Criminal Record is Holding Back My Green Card

Find out how a criminal record impacts your green card and the steps our Tennessee immigration attorney can take to protect you.

Having lawful permanent resident status, otherwise known as having a “green card,” authorizes a noncitizen to live and work legally in the United States. Obtaining a green card is a complex and lengthy process in which federal agencies conduct extensive background checks. If you have a criminal record, this could impact getting your application approved. Our Tennessee immigration attorneys explain more about this problem and how we can help you.

How a Criminal Record Impacts Your Eligibility for a Green Card

Green cards are issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to eligible foreign nationals. You may be entitled to obtain a green card, authorizing you to live and work in the United States as a lawful permanent resident if you fall into one of the following categories:

In order to obtain a green card, you will need to go through an extensive application process, which includes fingerprinting and a background check, referred to as providing “biometrics.” At a biometrics appointment, immigration officials will take your fingerprints and photograph. Applicants for permanent residence (and many other immigration benefits) will usually receive a notice to appear at a local office to provide “biometrics.” This appointment is not an interview and rather is only to collect fingerprints and a photograph and is usually complete in about 10 minutes. However, failure to appear for a biometrics appointment can result in denial of an application.

If a noncitizen has previously been convicted of a crime, it is important to consult with an immigration attorney to see how that crime might affect his or her eligibility. Some crimes do not affect eligibility, but some do and can result in a denial, such as conviction for an aggravated felony, illegal drug crimes, or certain crimes involving moral turpitude (behavior deviating from ordinary social standards, such as rape, murder, fraud, or theft). Sometimes there are legal arguments an attorney can make, arguing that a certain outcome of a case was not a “conviction” or does not otherwise disqualify non-citizens from the immigration relief they seek.

One common myth is that crimes “disappear” after the passage of a certain period of time, such as 10 years. That is simply not true. Important decisions from the Board of Immigration Appeals, the appellate “court” for immigration, which interprets the Immigration and Nationality Act, also make clear that expunged convictions still count for immigration purposes.

While an immigration application, such as one for permanent residence, may become much more complicated because of a criminal record, it does not mean that it is impossible to obtain permanent residence. If an immigrant has a criminal record of any kind, it is even more important that the case is handled by an immigration attorney with experience dealing with complex cases such as those involving criminal histories.

At Ozment Law, we understand that a mistake years ago does not reflect who a person is today, and we have a long history of helping and advising immigrants seeking permanent residence with criminal records.

How to Obtain a Green Card When You Have a Criminal Record

When applying for a green card, a noncitizen must answer questions about his or her background truthfully. Lying about a criminal past is a crime itself and could automatically disqualify him or her. Sometimes it is not the crime itself that causes a denial but the immigrant’s attempt at hiding the crime. Because nearly all arrests in the United States are reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)—and the immigration service uses the FBI’s records to perform background checks—it is extremely unlikely that the immigration service does not already know the immigrant’s history. Therefore, it is critical to list anything likely to show up in a background check, including traffic tickets and underage (juvenile) citations. Even misdemeanor citations (a “ticket” requiring a person to appear in court) count as “arrests,” even if a person was not taken to jail. At Ozment Law, we are happy to perform FBI background checks on behalf of our clients to check their records.

If you have concerns about a prior criminal conviction, contact our Tennessee immigration attorneys right away. We can determine whether your charges are likely to impact your green card eligibility and may be able to request a waiver on your behalf. Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, acknowledges your background while asserting the following:

Be aware that a criminal record can also affect your ability to obtain immigration status, a green card, renew your lawful permanent residency, or become a citizen. To protect yourself and your rights to remain in the United States, get legal help immediately.

Request a Confidential Consultation With Our Tennessee Immigration Lawyer Today

When it comes to serious matters that could impact your life, family, and immigration status, get the trusted legal guidance you need from Ozment Law PLC. To request a confidential consultation with our Tennessee immigration lawyers with knowledge and experience of how a criminal case or criminal record may impact immigration applications, call or contact our office online today or call us at (615) 321-8888. We speak Spanish, French, and English.