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How a Criminal History Impacts
Green Card & Citizenship

The Torres Attorneys Jan. 27, 2022

If you are a green card holder and you were convicted of a crime, you might wonder how the conviction may impact your immigration status. Can a criminal history derail you from the path to citizenship in the United States?

Consider speaking with an experienced immigration attorney if you were convicted of a crime and are worried about the possible consequences. At The Torres Law Firm, our immigration attorneys in Corpus Christi, Texas, will review your particular situation and determine what impact, if any, your criminal history may have on your ability to get a green card or adjust your status.

Understanding Good Moral Character

If you wonder about the effect of your criminal history on your immigration status as a green card holder, it is vital to understand what good moral character (GMC) is. Under U.S. law, individuals must show two things in order to qualify for naturalization:

  1. They have resided in the country for a specific period of time

  2. They have been a person of “good moral character” during this period

GMC means that the individual does not have serious problems with the law and fulfills all of their obligations under U.S. law. The GMC period depends on how long you must reside in the U.S. to qualify for naturalization. With some exceptions, the GMC period is five years.

If a person is convicted of a crime, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will take the conviction into account when deciding whether or not the person has good moral character. For the purposes of determining GMC in immigration law, the term “conviction” is defined as admitting guilt through a plea bargain or being found guilty by a judge or jury.

Crimes that May Lead to Deportation

Certain criminal offenses may result in the revocation of a green card or may even lead to your deportation from the United States. There are two categories of “deportable” crimes:

  1. Crimes of Moral Turpitude — Broadly speaking, a crime of moral turpitude is an offense that was committed recklessly or with evil intent. Common examples of crimes of moral turpitude include murder, rape, arson, blackmail, burglary, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, grand theft, aggravated assault, and others.

  2. Aggravated Felonies — Even if a crime is not considered a crime of moral turpitude, it may be a deportable offense if it meets the definition of an “aggravated felony.” For the purposes of immigration law, an aggravated felony does not necessarily need to be an aggravated offense or a felony to be considered a deportable crime. This category of crimes brings the most severe punishment under immigration law. Common examples are drug trafficking, human trafficking, kidnapping, lewd acts with children, child pornography, and others.

The Effect of A Conviction on Green Card Applications

A criminal conviction may negatively affect an immigrant’s green card application. However, not all offenses have a negative impact on the applicant’s immigration status. During the green card application process, USCIS will check the criminal records of both the green card holder and their sponsor. Certain convictions may disqualify U.S. citizens from sponsoring a green card application. Some of the disqualifying offenses include child kidnapping, sex offenses against minors, and production/possession/distribution of child pornography, among others.

Waiver of Inadmissibility

A green card holder may apply for a waiver of inadmissibility if they are not permitted to enter or remain in the U.S. because of their criminal history. When filing a waiver of inadmissibility, the immigrant must show that:

  • Their admission to the country would not pose a danger to anyone

  • The denial of admission would result in extreme hardship to a qualifying relative

Not all criminal offenses qualify for a waiver of inadmissibility. Certain crimes, such as murder and drug convictions, cannot be excused by a waiver.

Legal Counsel You Can Trust: Call Us
at The Torres Law Firm

Speak with an immigration attorney to fully understand the effect of your criminal conviction on your ability to enter or remain in the country, obtain a green card, or adjust your status. At The Torres Law Firm, we are dedicated to minimizing the adverse effects of criminal convictions and helping immigrants retain their green cards. We assist clients in Corpus Christi, Texas, as well as Fort Worth and Dallas. Get a case review with our immigration attorney by reaching out to us.