Immigration laws in the United States detail numerous scenarios in which it is appropriate to deport a person for immigration offenses. But did you know that even people who have a visa or green card can get deported?
In fact, there are many immigration crimes that can jeopardize a person’s immigration status. These crimes may be as minor as remaining in the country on an expired visa or as serious as murder.
Having a criminal record can make it impossible for a person to get a green card in some cases. If you are concerned that your criminal record may jeopardize your immigration status, keep reading.
1. Failing to Obey Your Visa Terms
If you are living in the United States on a visa, there are certain terms and conditions that apply to your time spent in the country. An example of this is that a person staying in the country on a tourist visa is not allowed to work.
It is important to pay close attention to the terms of your visa. If you violate any of the terms of your visa, such as remaining in the country after your visa expires, it is likely you will suffer deportation.
2. Failing to Report a Change of Address
A particularly minor offense that could result in deportation is failing to notify the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) if you change your address.
It is actually a crime for green card holding immigrants and nonimmigrants with visas to fail to submit an immediate notification to USCIS of a change of address. You have 10 days from the date of your move to send the notification.
It’s an extreme term, but it’s one that unfortunately can result in unfortunate consequences if not followed.
3. Getting Convicted of a Crime
If you commit certain serious crimes, it is likely you will not be able to qualify for a green card. If you are a nonimmigrant here on a visa and you commit a serious crime, you may get deported.
The crimes that can result in a green card holder or nonimmigrant being deported include:
- Aggravated felonies
- Crimes of moral turpitude
- Controlled substance violations
It is important to understand what constitutes a conviction for immigration purposes. If you are convicted of a crime, the court won’t necessarily refer to it as a crime of moral turpitude or an aggravated felony.
In most cases, crimes get labeled as misdemeanors or felonies. But, when immigration learns of your conviction, they will determine how to classify the crime for the purposes of immigration law.
Unfortunately, this means that even some misdemeanors can result in deportation. It is in your best interest to avoid committing any crimes while on a visa or applying for a green card.
The most important crimes to avoid include domestic violence, trafficking firearms, money laundering, fraud, terrorism, rape, murder, espionage, document fraud, and alien smuggling.
Crimes of Moral Turpitude
When Congress drafted this law, they failed to define the meaning of “moral turpitude.” Therefore, it is up to United States courts to define moral turpitude, and the way they define it is not always consistent.
The best way to determine whether a crime you’ve committed constitutes a crime of moral turpitude is to consult an immigration attorney. But in general, a crime of moral turpitude involves some form of evil intent.
Examples of crimes of moral turpitude include murder, fraud, theft, and domestic violence. Crimes like a DUI, a parking violation, or assault likely will not constitute crimes of moral turpitude.
Controlled Substance Violations
Controlled substance violations typically include the illegal possession of drugs like cocaine and heroin. However, it is important to recognize that although cannabis is legal in some states, it is prohibited according to federal law.
Therefore, if you are arrested for a cannabis-related crime, you may be subject to deportation.
Exceptions to Moral Turpitude and Controlled Substance Charges
There are a couple of scenarios in which the courts may still give a green card to a person convicted of a crime of moral turpitude or a controlled substance violation.
The first scenario requires three things. The person must have committed the crime as a minor. They must no longer be in jail. Finally, five years need to have passed since they committed the crime.
If all of those conditions are met, it may still be possible to get a green card.
The second scenario requires two things. The maximum penalty for the crime committed is one year or less. In addition, the amount of time the person spent in jail was six months or less.
Other Crimes That Will Jeopardize Your Immigration Status
Here is a list of the various crimes that will prevent a person from getting a green card. You can learn more about the laws regarding immigration crimes in the Immigration and Nationality Act.
- Drug trafficking
- Human trafficking (with the exception of children belonging to the trafficker)
- Profiting from the human trafficking committed by a relative
- Money laundering
- Multiple criminal convictions with a combined sentence of five or more years
- Serious criminal offenses, followed by assertion of immunity, followed by fleeing the country
Finally, whether to grant a green card to a person who commits a crime is ultimately left to the discretion of the courts. Committing an aggravated felony is likely to result in denial of a green card and deportation.
4. Receiving Public Assistance
One of requirements for getting a green card is being able to prove you will not need to rely on government assistance. Immigration laws refer to this as becoming a public charge. Essentially, you have to be able to support yourself.
It is also possible to suffer deportation if you become a public charge within five years of entering the country.
5. Violating U.S. Immigration Law
Violating U.S. immigration law in any way may be grounds for deportation for people living in the country on visas and with green cards. Some examples of violations of U.S. immigration law include:
- Smuggling aliens into the U.S.
- Lying on a visa application
- Buying a false green card or visa
- Participating in a fraudulent marriage
Do not help anyone to enter the country in a manner that violates immigration law. It is the law that all immigrants and nonimmigrants enter the U.S. by the proper channels.
Offenses That Affect Immigration Status
Maintaining your immigration status is no walk in the park. A small infraction like failing to notify immigration services of a change of address can jeopardize your immigration status.
On the other end of the spectrum, a person can get deported if they commit a variety of serious crimes. Likewise, receiving public assistance and violating immigration law may lead to deportation and green card denial.
Continue to educate yourself on your rights as an immigrant and contact a lawyer from our directory if you think your immigration status may be in jeopardy.