Tag: Criminal History

Will my criminal history make me ineligible for immigration benefits?

Having a criminal record can affect your ability to receive immigration benefits, whether you’re seeking a temporary visa, green card, or an adjustment of status. But under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) convictions for certain crimes, or admissions to committing certain crimes, will automatically make you “inadmissible” to the United States. If you’ve been convicted of or admitted to any of these crimes, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will deny your immigration case, unless you will not succeed in your immigration case, unless USCIS grants you a waiver of admissibility. 

The Immigration and Nationality Act

Section 212 (A) of the Immigration Nationality Act sets forth the crimes that are grounds for inadmissibility, or in other words, ineligibility for a temporary or permanent visa to the US. Among other things, you will become inadmissible if you’re convicted of or admitted to having committed: 

  1. A crime of moral turpitude (e.g., murder, rape, child abuse, aggravated assault, theft, perjury, fraud, and many other crimes)
  2. A violation of any controlled substance law (drugs), whether in the U.S. or abroad.
  3. Multiple criminal convictions for which the total prison sentences were five years or more. 
  4. Illicit trafficking in any controlled substance (drugs). 
  5. Benefiting, financially or otherwise, from illicit drug trafficking, by a spouse, son, or daughter of the trafficker within the previous five years. 
  6. Prostitution and commercialized vice, including procuring prostitutes or receiving proceeds from prostitution. 
  7. Human trafficking or benefitting from human trafficking, whether inside or outside the United States.
  8. Money laundering.

This list provided here is not exhaustive, and each crime may have particular nuances or exceptions. Also, every criminal jurisdiction will define and use words for crimes in different ways. One important job of an immigration attorney is to “translate” your state or foreign conviction into the language of the INA in order to determine where it falls on the INA’s list of problematic crimes. 

Waiver for Inadmissible Crimes

In some cases, you may be able to gain entry into the United States despite your criminal history if the USCIS grants you a “forgiveness” waiver. Section 212(i) 212(h) of the INA describes the waivers for criminal history for someone applying for a visa or a green card. There are also special waivers available in Immigration Court, for example, under INA 237(a)(1)(H) for fraud/misrepresentations that do not result in criminal convictions and 240A for individuals who have been in the US at least 7 years (if a green card holder) or 10 years (if not a green card holder). Also, there is a general waiver under INA 212(d) for applicants for nonimmigrant (aka temporary) visas.

What to do if you have a criminal history

If you have a criminal history and you’re applying for immigration benefits in the United States, it’s crucial to seek the help of an experienced immigration lawyer. I’ve helped clients around the world with a range of complicated immigration issues, and I’d like to help you too.

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.