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Should a Green Card Holder With a Conviction Leave the U.S.? 

The Torres Law Firm July 30, 2022

If you’re currently a green card holder in the U.S., you’ve no doubt worked very hard to achieve this status and you don’t want to do anything to jeopardize it. Traveling outside the U.S. can get tricky if you have a conviction in your past — even if you’ve served out your sentence completely.  

Because these laws can be so complex, it’s always best to consult with an immigration attorney before you consider leaving the country as a green card holder with a conviction. If your specific circumstances aren’t properly investigated, you could run the risk of being deported. If you’re in the Corpus Christi, Dallas, or Fort Worth areas, contact us at The Torres Law Firm today to discuss your options.  

No, Speak to an Attorney First 

One of the benefits of holding a green card is being able to leave and return to the U.S. This is especially important for legal residents who still have family and loved ones in their home country who they want to visit. However, if you’ve been convicted of crimes in the past, your legal status as a permanent resident is too important to risk, which is why you should always speak with an experienced attorney before traveling. This is true even if you’ve traveled outside the U.S. since your conviction — just because you were safe once doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get away with it again.  

What Can Happen? 

There are certain crimes that can cause a green card holder to be taken into custody, begin removal proceedings, or be deemed inadmissible for re-entry when returning from traveling abroad. Even though there are laws on the books regarding permanent residents who commit certain crimes, immigration officials can’t track everyone that has any kind of criminal record, and it’s often not until the green card holder is re-entering the U.S. that they get flagged.   

Anytime someone enters the U.S. through a border checkpoint, they’re asked if they’ve ever been arrested for or been convicted of a crime. If you do have a conviction on your record (or if you lie to border officials and they later discover through your fingerprints that you do in fact have a conviction), this could be grounds to begin removal proceedings.  

What Could Make Me Inadmissible for Re-Entry? 

There are many crimes that could make you inadmissible for re-entry when you travel outside the U.S., such as crimes of “moral turpitude.” These are notoriously hard to define but can include murder, robbery, or any crime where you had the intention to harm someone else. However, this doesn’t include crimes for which your prison sentence was less than six months and the maximum potential sentence for your crime was less than a year. 

You may also be inadmissible if your conviction involved a controlled substance violation including trafficking, crimes involving prostitution, human trafficking, money laundering, aggravated felonies, or if you spent five or more years in prison due to two separate crimes. Even within these categories, there may be certain circumstances that would protect you from deportation, but only an attorney will be able to tell you for certain whether you’ll be safe. 

Can the Court Grant Me Permission to Travel With a Conviction? 

In some cases, a judge can grant a waiver or relief in removal proceedings for your specific offense, but this must be obtained before you begin traveling. The best way to explore this option is by working with your immigration attorney to see if you meet the criteria. The criteria essentially requires that you aren’t deemed a security threat, but this is determined on a case-by-case basis from a judge. 

Work With an Experienced Immigration Attorney 

As a green card holder, you’ve earned the right to travel in and out of the country, but certain convictions may cause you some difficulty. Reach out to us at The Torres Law Firm in Corpus Christi, Texas, if you’re considering international travel and are concerned about your criminal history