Disclosing Criminal Histories on Immigration Applications: What You Should Know

The United States requires all applicants for immigration benefits to disclose information about their criminal history, whether applying for a visa, green card, or U.S. citizenship. If you have a criminal record, this can be worrying. 

If you have any criminal history–even if you were never arrested nor convicted of anything–you should consult with an attorney about the immigration consequences of your criminal history. Having a criminal history does not necessarily mean your application will be denied. If you are eligible to apply for any immigration benefits, you must report your criminal history honestly and accurately. Omitting information, changing information, and other ways to misrepresent your criminal history could result in the US government charging you with misrepresentation, which is a problem to overcome. 

Here’s what you need to know.

Disclose your full criminal history

You should disclose any criminal conviction, arrest, or charge on your immigration petition unless advised otherwise by a qualified immigration attorney. In most cases, you should disclose a conviction even if the record is expunged or sealed. 

If you have a juvenile record, you should consult with an attorney about whether it needs to be disclosed, even if a court sealed the record. Some juvenile issues are not considered criminal. Others are considered criminal. Even if considered criminal, the issue may not negatively affect your eligibility for immigration benefits. There is an exception to ineligibility for immigration benefits based on a crime of moral turpitude if you were under 18 when the crime took place and took place over five years ago. 

How the USCIS evaluates criminal histories

Some crimes disqualify you for all immigration benefits. Some crimes require you to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility. Some crimes have no statutory effect on your immigration status, but will be considered in the total discretionary analysis of you as an application for immigration benefits. 

What to do if you have a criminal history 

You must consult with an experienced immigration attorney before applying for any immigration benefit through USCIS, the Department of State or the Immgration Court. 

As an immigration lawyer, I can assess how your criminal history might affect your application and how you should disclose the history on your application. My work with clients around the world and in the U.S. helps make complicated immigration procedures and paperwork go as smoothly and efficiently as possible.