If you are not a U.S. citizen, arrests and criminal convictions – even for things that happened a long time ago or things that seem very minor – can have a major impact on your immigration status. The intersection of criminal and immigration laws is extremely complicated, and the rules change frequently.
Certain criminal acts and convictions can make a person “inadmissible,” meaning ineligible for a visa, a green card, or admission to the United States after travel abroad. Crimes can also make a person “removable” from the United States. This is true even for people who have their green card. Green card holders, also known as Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), can be placed in removal proceedings if they are convicted of certain types of crimes. Even a municipal conviction for shoplifting or a conviction for possession of a small amount of drugs can lead to deportation.
Certain criminal convictions are not serious enough to make a person inadmissible or deportable, but they can still impact whether a person will receive certain immigration benefits. First, an applicant is ineligible for certain benefits, such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status, or naturalization (citizenship), if they have been convicted of certain crimes. Second, some benefits are granted in DHS’s or in an immigration judge’s “discretion.” This means that DHS and immigration judges will decide if they think you “deserve” whatever benefit you are seeking. They will look at your convictions, some of which can weigh very heavily against you.
For example, under current law, a conviction for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) does not make a person inadmissible or deportable, but it does make a person ineligible for DACA. Though it would not make someone automatically ineligible to naturalize, a DUI would make it very hard to show that the applicant “deserves” to become a citizen. Very few people are granted citizenship if they have a DUI on their record, especially if it happened recently.
If you are not a U.S. citizen and you have ever been arrested, charged with a crime, or convicted of a crime, you should consult with an experienced immigration lawyer before you:
Decide whether to expunge or seal criminal records. While expunging or sealing records may have some positive effects, like making it easier to get a job, expunged and sealed convictions are still considered convictions under immigration law. Sometimes, sealing records can even make your immigration process more complicated.
We can guide you through this complicated process. To learn more, contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.
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