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Criminal Records and Immigration: Overcoming Inadmissibility

No one is perfect, and the law does not expect you to be. No one.

Criminal Records and Immigration: Overcoming Inadmissibility

No one is perfect, and the law does not expect you to be. No one would ever be acquitted of a crime, exercise parenting time with their own children, or hold public office if a prerequisite for doing so was having your life history scrutinized until it was determined that you are of flawless character. 

So, what about when it comes to criminal records and immigration? When you are residing in the United States and waiting to become eligible for permanent residency or naturalization, it is easy to feel like your entire immigration case is doomed if you make even a minor mistake. Getting arrested on suspicion of a crime is not a deal breaker since everyone, regardless of immigration status, is innocent until proven guilty. If you get convicted in criminal court, it does not mean that your immigration case is a lost cause because several forms of relief are available if USCIS declares you inadmissible to remain in the United States. For advice about overcoming inadmissibility, contact an Arizona immigration lawyer.

What You Need to Know About Criminal Records and Immigration?

What does it mean to be inadmissible to remain in the United States? When USCIS declares a foreign national inadmissible, it means that if the person is currently outside the United States, it is not legal for him or her to enter, and USCIS has the right to deny the person’s application for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa. If the person is currently in the United States, then inadmissibility means that it is illegal for him or her to remain in the U.S., and USCIS has the right to begin deportation proceedings. These are some circumstances where USCIS might declare you inadmissible:

  • You have a communicable disease that USCIS considers a threat to public health, your vaccines are not up to date, or you have a history of substance use disorder or mental illness.
  • Certain criminal convictions make you inadmissible.  For example, you become inadmissible if you have been convicted of two offenses, where the combined sentence for both is at least five years in prison.  Drug crimes, money laundering, and racketeering also make you inadmissible, as do “crimes of moral turpitude.”  There is no fixed legal definition of “moral turpitude,” but it is generally considered to include murder and felony sex offenses.  In other words, minor crimes such as theft, simple assault, and drunk driving without causing an accident do not make you inadmissible.
  • A judge or Department of State official has expressed credible suspicions that you are planning to commit espionage or hate crimes or to attempt to overthrow the government.
  • Your financial situation is such that you are likely to depend on public assistance benefits.  In other words, you have failed to obtain work authorization or to show proof of funds, depending on what your visa category requires.
  • You have lied on a current or previous immigration application.

Inadmissibility Waivers

It is possible to obtain an inadmissibility waiver for most grounds of inadmissibility if you can show that your removal from the United States would place your health or safety in danger or would create a hardship for your close family members who are in the United States. There are different waivers, each of which enables you to overcome a different reason for inadmissibility.  If you have one criminal conviction, you may obtain a 212(h) waiver. Only the most serious crimes are ineligible for 212(h) waivers. You also need a waiver if you have been accused of a crime, but the criminal court granted you immunity in exchange for your testimony against one or more co-defendants; this requirement applies whether the court granted you immunity without ever formally charging you or whether you were charged, but the state dropped its case against you in exchange with your cooperation with the prosecution.

Other Forms of Relief for Overcoming Inadmissibility

You do not need a waiver if the court has taken certain actions after your conviction that make your guilt less certain. For example, if you were convicted of a crime, but the state or federal government later pardoned you, you are no longer inadmissible for immigration, adjustment of status, or naturalization. Likewise, you do not need a waiver if you have sought post-conviction relief in the criminal court, which means that you have asked the criminal court to revisit its decision or requested a new trial.

Contact Singular Law Group About Overcoming Inadmissibility

An immigration attorney can help you move forward with your immigration case or avoid deportation if USCIS has declared you inadmissible to the United States. Contact Singular Law Group PLLC in Tempe, Arizona, to set up a consultation.

Sources

https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/document/foia/Inadmissibillity_and_Waivers.pdf

A Tempe immigration lawyer can help you file an inadmissibility waiver if USCIS has declared you inadmissible because of a criminal conviction.

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