On Criminal Conviction and Immigration Status

An arrest record – this is one major obstacle that stands between foreign nationals aspiring to acquire a U.S. visa and the acquisition of the visa itself. A U.S. visa is what will enable a hopeful immigrant to work and live in the United States, however, to make sure that no “inadmissible” applicants will set foot on U.S. soil (these are individuals may be or become threats to others or to the nation’s peace and order), government officials review visa and citizenship applications more strictly.

Section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.), enumerates the different kinds of crimes, past immigration violations, and communicable diseases which are grounds for inadmissibility. In reference to crimes, a foreign national who may guilty of any of the following crimes will be rendered inadmissible, much more be denied of a green card; this is despite the absence of an actual court conviction:

  • Human trafficking, drug trafficking, prostitution, kidnapping, money laundering, profiting financially from human trafficking activities (this specific crime does not include children of traffickers), and multiple criminal convictions that is given a collective sentence of five years or more;
  • Aggravated felony, such as sexual abuse of a minor, rape, serious theft, money laundering and murder;
  • Crimes indicated in Section 101(a)(15)(B) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), but wherein the offender has declared immunity from prosecution, left the US, and refused to surrender to to the authority of a U.S. court; and,
  • A crime that involves moral turpitude and controlled substances (this crime includes possession of cocaine, marijuana or heroine). There are inconsistencies with regard to what “crimes involving moral turpitude” (CIMT) actually mean since interpretation of this is entrusted to courts. One sure common factor, though, is evil intent, which will surely put theft, fraud, murder and serious crimes of violence, in the list.

US immigration laws, however, have made some exceptions concerning CIMT and violations of laws on controlled substances, based on the following considerations:

  • The criminal was still a minor (under 18) when he/she committed the crime;
  • The crime was committed five (or more) years ago; and,
  • The person is no longer in jail or the penalty for the crime committed does not exceed a year and that the actual length of imprisonment does not go beyond six months (an exception called “petty offense”).

Whether one is a foreign national or a citizen in the U.S., Chicago criminal defense attorneys of the Bruno Law Offices, know that the effects of a criminal conviction can result to serious damages to his/her professional and personal reputation, affecting his/her future employment, international travels, and so many others (losses may be greater for foreign nationals, though, who are aspiring to immigrate in the U.S.).

Austin immigration attorneys also point out how having a criminal record can be a major challenge for visa applicants; this is besides the fact that immigrating and establishing citizenship in the U.S. is a long and difficult process. Despite these issues, a seasoned immigration attorney may be able to render valuable assistance with regard to immigration concerns, while a highly-skilled criminal defense lawyer may be able to provide the necessary help where applying for a “waiver” or legal forgiveness for the crime committed is the issue, especially if the crime was the applicant’s first offense.