How a Criminal Conviction Can Impact Your Immigration Case

If you are not yet a United States citizen, an arrest or criminal conviction, no matter how minor or how far in the past, can have negative repercussions on your immigration status. You may find that you cannot get permanent residence, citizenship, or even a work visa. You may also be detained or deported. For this reason, contacting a lawyer as early in the process as possible is your best chance of redeeming yourself in the eyes of the law.

Consequences of Criminal Behavior

A criminal conviction can impact a person’s admissibility to and removability from the United States. It can lead to an arrest by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, detention, revocation of status, denial of citizenship or lawful permanent residence status, or the initiation of removal proceedings against you by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. You may be detained during the pendency of your removal case; and if you are removed to your home country, you could be banned from the U.S. for a number of years, or permanently.

Immigration law is a civil process that differs from criminal law, and treats crimes differently. In immigration a conviction includes a sentence by a judge or jury, some form of punishment, a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, a suspended sentence, adjudication withheld or diversion programs where the defendant is required to enter a guilty plea before being permitted to enter the program, even where the plea is withdrawn and removed upon successful completion of the program. That initial guilty plea is sufficient to count as a conviction for immigration purposes. Significantly, immigration law does not recognize expungements, and these are still considered conviction for immigration purposes.

Although not a conviction for immigration purposes, an adjudication of juvenile delinquency may create problems for an immigrant. Certain grounds of inadmissibility and removability do not depend on a criminal conviction; rather, mere bad acts, juvenile arrest, charge, or delinquency adjudication may trigger negative immigration consequences.

Grounds for Deportation

Only certain criminal convictions are grounds for deportation. These include aggravated felonies, drug convictions, crimes of moral turpitude, domestic violence, firearm convictions, as well as being a threat to national security or committing treason. You cannot be deported while your case is on appeal, but if you file a motion to vacate your criminal conviction, the government can remove you from the country while you wait for a decision.

Avoiding Deportation

In certain circumstances, you can request that your conviction is vacated or modified. For example, if you plead guilty without being warned that it could lead to deportation, you may be able to have the conviction vacated. The prosecution has the right to bring charges against you again, but sometimes they won’t.

Your best bet to avoid deportation is to hire an immigration attorney who understands criminal law. The lawyers at the Sanchez-Roig Law Firm, P.A. are here to guide you through the immigration process and help you stay in the U.S. Call us at (305) 373-5385 to discuss your case as soon as possible.