3 times criminal charges can affect someone’s immigration status

On Behalf of | Apr 18, 2024 | US Immigration Law

Immigrants in the United States are subject to numerous rules. They have to follow specific procedures to lawfully enter or stay in the country. While in the United States, immigrants need to remain compliant with a variety of different regulations, including criminal statutes.

Background checks play an important role in the immigration process. Someone applying for a visa must undergo a thorough background check. There is also a criminal background check performed when someone adjusts their status to become a permanent resident. Naturalization also requires that someone passes yet another criminal background check.

Not every criminal charge automatically prevents someone from remaining in the United States, renewing a visa or becoming a citizen. There are specific scenarios in which a criminal offense could alter an immigrant’s opportunities. For example, situations that fall into one of the three categories below could lead to immigration consequences.

Violent offenses

As a general rule, many violent offenses are often grounds for removal from the United States or the denial of other immigration requests. Offenses that impact human rights, including prostitution and smuggling a person, can also make someone ineligible for immigration opportunities.

Crimes with a long-term sentence

Not every criminal charge leads to incarceration, but many do. If a judge sentences someone to time in state facilities, the sentence imposed could directly affect their immigration rights.  The incarceration of an immigrant for 180 days or more could affect their rights. There are also immigration consequences for those convicted of multiple crimes that carry an aggregate sentence of five years or more.

Specific concerning crimes

The federal government recognizes several categories of crimes that may not be felonies that could affect immigration options. Crimes of moral turpitude, which are crimes that offend public sensibilities, may have immigration consequences. Offenses related to drug addiction or habitual drunkenness also often have immigration consequences. Gambling crimes, repeat drunk driving offenses, adultery, polygamy and a failure to support dependents can also all have immigration consequences.

Defending against criminal charges is often key to avoiding immigration consequences. People can also sometimes secure waivers of inadmissibility that can help them with immigration after a conviction. Immigrants who understand when a crime might affect their status can make an informed choice when they respond to a pending charge.