How Green Card Criminal Background Checks Can Affect Your Immigration Status
A green card is an immigrant visa that grants a foreign-born person lawful permanent resident status in the United States.
Although the U.S. welcomes eligible immigrants to apply for this coveted visa, obtaining a green card involves a strict and extensive review of the applicant’s criminal history to ensure that his or her permanent presence will only benefit the nation.
U.S. immigration law requires green card applicants to disclose all criminal convictions, including those that may have been expunged or expunged. Although you may have been told by your criminal immigration attorney or a law enforcement officer that you do not have to do so in other proceedings, full disclosure is mandatory.
The U.S. government has many different ways of determining the criminal history of the person filing an immigration application, depending on whether you are applying from within the United States (adjustment of status) or outside the U.S. (consular processing).
This section can be daunting for those who have had legal problems in the past. However, when you have the knowledge and a strong legal team, you may have options.
On the other hand, some criteria will help in your process of obtaining a green card, such as good moral character for the last five years prior to your green card application. If you are applying based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, that period is reduced to 3 years.
We go over everything you need to know about your criminal background check in this guide. You’ll learn what criminal offenses could lead to denial, how you should complete your application when you have a criminal record, and more.
What Is Included in the Criminal Background Check for the U.S. Green Card?
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for conducting a criminal background check for U.S. green card applications.
The agency checks the criminal history of both the applicant and his or her sponsor. In conducting these checks, immigration officials look for a criminal record involving a criminal conviction, an arrest, or anything else that indicates you were involved in a criminal act. Keep in mind that even if you did not commit a crime but pleaded guilty in a criminal case, this will count against you in your green card interview.
As part of the process, applicants must submit documentation depending on their situation. For example, if you are applying from within the U.S., you must submit police records.
Be sure to obtain criminal records even if the arrests occurred when you were younger, did not result in a conviction, were expunged from your record by a judge, etc. In most cases, you will not need to provide documentation for minor traffic violations.
Obtaining a Police Clearance Certificate for a Green Card
If you are applying from abroad, you must submit a police clearance certificate for green card applications. This documentation details your arrests and their outcomes in your previous countries of residence.
To obtain a police clearance certificate to apply for U.S. permanent resident status, you must contact the appropriate issuing authority in the country or countries where you have lived.
If you have been convicted abroad of a criminal offense, talk to a criminal defense immigration attorney. It may be difficult to determine the impact of that conviction on your green card application. Your conviction will need to be compared to U.S. law to find the offense most similar to the one committed before determining if you are eligible for a green card application.
Can I Get a Green Card if I Have a Criminal Record?
If you have been in trouble with the law in the past, you may be wondering, “Can I get a green card if I have a criminal record?” The answer is, it depends.
Three types of convictions will make you inadmissible, which means you cannot get a green card:
- Aggravated Felony Conviction
- Conviction of Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude
- Conviction for a controlled substance offense.
In the context of immigration law purposes, a “conviction” can include any instance in which an immigration judge found you guilty or you admitted your guilt through a plea agreement.
Aggravated Felony Conviction
The term “aggravated felony” is relatively broad, but any violent or dangerous crime will generally fall into this category. It applies to such serious crimes as murder, rape, child pornography, sexual abuse of a minor, certain types of fraud-related offenses, drug trafficking, etc. However, it may also refer to other crimes involving gambling or minor drug offenses. .
Conviction for Offenses Involving Moral Turpitude
This term refers to a criminal offense that someone committed with “evil intent,” meaning they were trying to harm someone. It is a broad sentencing classification as immigration courts have had different rulings in various cases.
While murder and rape follow this category, charges involving fraud or animal abuse may also qualify. Most courts will not consider a criminal conviction for simple assault, joyriding or breaking and entering as aggravated felonies involving moral turpitude in an immigration context.
Criminal convictions for a crime of moral turpitude such as fraud, murder or rape will render you inadmissible and that disqualifies you from applying for lawful permanent residence in the US.
Conviction of a Controlled Substance Violation
Any drug-related offense or controlled substance violation may make you inadmissible, even if the charge was for possession or personal use.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides an exception for drug-related offenses. However, you must only have a drug conviction charge involving less than 30 grams of marijuana for personal use to qualify.
But, even then, you would have to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility. That pretty much means you are asking U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) not to make your criminal conviction a barrier to getting your green card or lawful permanent residence.
Can a Green Card Holder Go to Jail?
If you are a green card holder, it is essential for you to know that your permanent resident status can be revoked if you are convicted of an aggravated felony or a crime involving “moral turpitude,” such as fraud and perjury.
You will then have to leave the country and apply for re-entry. This process can take years and may require multiple trips back to the U.S., depending on how long ago you were admitted to the country with lawful permanent resident status.
It is also possible that even if your criminal conviction was not considered an “aggravated felony” at the time of sentencing, but was later determined to be one by immigration authorities after exhausting all appeals, your permanent residency could still be revoked. Again, it will likely take several trips to the U.S. before you can return permanently on a new immigrant visa (green card).
To help protect your rights, always talk to an immigration attorney before pleading guilty or no contest to criminal charges. This is important because if you do this first with an attorney first, and if deportation could occur as a result of your guilty plea, you may not be able to legally return to the U.S. without special permission from USCIS. And it is difficult for someone to obtain this permission.
Call us today for an attorney-client relationship so we can help you protect your rights.
How to Get a Green Card With a Criminal Record
Wondering how to get a green card with a criminal record? Perhaps the most important thing is to be honest with your immigration application.
Both Form I-485 and Form DS-260 ask questions about your criminal history. They focus on questions related to illegal drugs, money laundering, human trafficking, prostitution, etc. Read each question carefully and provide accurate information about where and when it happened, the final disposition of the case, etc. To support your answers, you will need to provide the documentation we detailed above.
Whatever you do, do not lie or withhold information for fear of denial. These actions could end up serving as grounds for denial, even if the crimes you do not report did not render you inadmissible. Also, if you come to the U.S. for your green card interview and your application is denied because of a criminal conviction, you may be placed in deportation proceedings.
If you have a criminal record, the best thing to do is to contact an immigration attorney before submitting to a criminal background check. With legal advice from a reputable immigration law firm, you can determine what you need to report and collect as the necessary documentation under U.S. immigration laws.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS ) Background Check for Green Cards
In a USCIS background check for green card applications, the agency will look for the criminal convictions we mentioned above (aggravated felonies, crimes of moral turpitude, and drug-related offenses). If the agency finds you inadmissible for a green card, you may be able to apply for a waiver.
An application for a waiver of inadmissibility must show that your residence in the U.S. would not put anyone in danger. You must also prove that your spouse (who must be a U.S. citizen or green card holder) would face “extreme hardship” if he or she were unable to live in the U.S.
Although many crimes may make you inadmissible, the mere fact that you have been convicted of an aggravated felony does not automatically mean that you cannot receive a green card.
Also, keep in mind that certain criminal records are not eligible for waivers under U.S. immigration law. For example, if you have a murder or rape conviction, you will still be inadmissible. Unless you qualify under the INA waiver mentioned above, you cannot obtain a waiver for drug trafficking convictions (unless you qualify under the INA waiver mentioned above).
What Is a Waiver of Inadmissibility?
If you are not allowed to enter the U.S., you may be able to obtain a waiver that will allow you to legally enter the country. A waiver is an application process that allows someone who would not otherwise be eligible to enter the United States to obtain permission and enter.
There are several types of waivers available depending on your specific situation, but all require extensive documentation and proof of extreme hardship or persecution if you were denied entry. It is a complicated process and you must file a Form I-601 with the assistance of an immigration attorney.
Our experienced attorneys can help guide you through this challenging process so that your family does not have to suffer any longer.
If You Have a Green Card, Can You Be Deported?
Yes, under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, you can face deportation proceedings even if you have a green card.
For example, you can be deported for U.S. immigration violations, marriage fraud, failure to register as a sex offender, or one of the crimes that would make you inadmissible for a green card, including aggravated felonies and any crime of moral turpitude.
Once you become a U.S. citizen, you cannot be deported for any reason (unless you obtained your immigration benefit through fraud). Once you become a U.S. citizen, you cannot be deported for any reason (unless you obtained your immigration benefit through fraud). However, if you receive a criminal conviction for any of the above offenses prior to obtaining citizenship, U.S. immigration officials may initiate deportation proceedings against you.
Contact an Immigration Attorney Today for All Your Immigration Law Needs.
Having a criminal record may seem like a major obstacle to navigating the immigration process, especially when it comes to obtaining your green card.
However, with the right immigration attorney working on your application, you can make the process much easier and increase your chances of getting approved the first time.