How Exactly Does a Criminal Conviction Affect an Immigration Case?

The short answer to this question is that it depends. It depends on what crime the conviction is for, your immigration status, and where the conviction was made. What is certain, however, is that if you have a criminal conviction, no matter how minor or far back in the past, it is very important to have experienced legal counsel helping you with your immigration application from the beginning.

What was the crime?

It is extremely important to know exactly what crime or crimes you were convicted of. If you were previously deported from the United States for a conviction for any one of certain crimes that are considered to be aggravated felonies, it means that you are automatically prohibited from entering the United States. Aggravated felonies include convictions for murder, rape, drug trafficking, gun trafficking, theft with a sentence of at least one year, kidnapping, and lying under oath (perjury). Even if you were not deported due to the conviction of the aggravated felony, the conviction can still make it much more difficult to get out of deportation.

Convictions for other crimes can also cause problems. These crimes include Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT). These types of crimes involve actions that are wilfully wrong or against morals and decency. They can include domestic assault, avoiding paying taxes, child abuse, assault with a deadly weapon, shoplifting, and stalking. Even more than one conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) can raise questions about your good moral character.

It is also important to remember that CIMTs may not be felonies. They can be misdemeanors, but due to their nature, they qualify as CIMTs and they can be used against you. Obviously, multiple convictions cause more problems than one conviction, regardless of the crime.

What is your residency status?

Even permanent residents can have their residency revoked for criminal convictions. They can be deported or refused re-entry into the U.S. Lawful permanent residents have more protections than non-residents in this case, but it is not a guarantee.

Immigrants who are not lawful permanent residents and are convicted of an aggravated felony may be deported without a hearing, and may not be allowed to request asylum or appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals. They can be physically removed from the country within two weeks of the order. That being said, you should consult an experienced immigration attorney to make sure that you understand all of your options.

Where was the conviction made?

If you are living in the United States and are convicted of a crime, it will not be difficult to determine what impact it will have on your pending status or application. If you were convicted of a crime in another country, the U.S. will consider it a conviction if it was a crime that is also a crime in the United States. The U.S. standards for prison sentences will be used to determine if the conviction was for a felony or misdemeanor without looking at the sentence that was imposed in the foreign country. Immigrants seeking citizenship must report any foreign arrests, citations, charges, convictions, and sentences on their application. Failure to do so will probably be considered a crime as well.

If you have a conviction, either in the United States or in your home country, you need to have experienced and knowledgeable attorneys working for you to determine what impact the convictions will have on your status and application. The attorneys at Rotella & Hernandez understand how important this question is and will do their best to help answer yours. Call us today at 786-571-8472.

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