Your immigration status as a non-citizen can have severe implications if you are charged with a crime. Understanding how the criminal justice system and immigration interact and how a conviction can impact your ability to live in the United States is vital. An experienced immigration visa attorney can assist you in addressing the complex legal issues that may arise from a criminal charge.

Read on to learn more about the implications of criminal records on immigration status.

The Impact of Criminal Activities on Immigration

Your ability to live as a non-citizen in the United States can be affected if you have been convicted of any crimes in the U.S. or abroad. A criminal record can also lead to the deportation of a person with a valid green card or non-immigration visa. The crimes that can be grounds for inadmissibility for individuals are outlined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). However, it is critical to remember that not every crime on an individual’s criminal record makes them unacceptable to the United States.

For immigration purposes, the INA separates crime into two main categories: crimes of aggravated felonies and moral turpitude. Most crimes have an immigrant waiver under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Unfortunately, no waiver is allowed for murder or criminal offenses such as drug trafficking and torture. Individuals residing in the United States convicted of particular crimes are subject to deportation.

The 212(h) waiver can offer deportation defense. For the 212(h) waiver to be granted, an immigrant must prove the following:

  • The crime happened 15 years before the person applied for an adjustment of status, entry, or visa.
  • Their admission to the United States would not conflict with the safety of the country, national welfare.
  • The individual has gone through rehabilitation.

Note that the decision to grant a waiver is exclusively dependent on the United Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

An individual is supposed to reveal whether they have ever been sentenced for a crime. Individuals sometimes lie, but their transgressions are exposed through fingerprint checks or other means.

If a person is caught lying when applying for a green card or visa, they automatically become ineligible for every immigration benefit in the United States. Therefore, telling the truth about all the documentation is crucial to avoid jeopardizing your ability to enter and live in the U.S.

Seek help from an experienced immigration attorney to learn about green card renewal and how you can go about your immigration process if you have a criminal record.

Applying for a Green Card with Criminal Records

The Fundamentals

The USCIS wants to know every detail about your encounters with law enforcement in your country and the U.S. Traffic violations are the only exemptions. Suppose the only citation you’ve gotten is for a minor traffic violation; you don’t have to indicate it; however, everything else you are supposed to mention.

Be honest and provide adequate information to the USCIS when filling out your green card application. State every time you were charged with a crime, arrested, cited, or if your criminal record has been expunged.

Remember, providing false information on immigration can make you unqualified for a green card.

Types of Convictions

As per United States immigration law, three types of criminal convictions can make you inadmissible for a green card. These criminal convictions comprise:

  • Crimes involving illegal drugs
  • Crimes of moral turpitude
  • Aggravated felonies

Answering Criminal History Questions

While applying for a green card in the U.S., you should answer some questions about your criminal history on Form I-485 (the “Application to Adjust Status”). On the other hand, when tendering your green card through a U.S. embassy consulate from outside the borders of the U.S., you will be required to answer similar questions on Form DS-260 (the “Immigrant Visa Application”).

You’ll have to answer roughly 20 questions linked to your criminal history. Normally, they will ask if you have a criminal history and if you plan to commit any crimes in the future. The questions will mainly focus on issues related to human trafficking, drugs, prostitution, and money laundering.

Ensure you read each question carefully. Bear in mind that these questions refer to criminal histories abroad and in the United States, so disclose everything when applying for a green card.

If you have a criminal history, you ought to provide more information. You need to give details about where you were convicted, charged, or cited, as well as the precise charge or citation and the case’s final verdict.

Ensure you backup the information with relevant documents to accurately show you are describing the criminal record. This can include a report from the police department where you were cited or arrested—copies of charges against you, or records displaying the last outcome of your case.


You can request a waiver of inadmissibility to plead for your history of crime, provided you can prove your admittance to the U.S. would not put in danger anyone and your spouse, who is U.S. Citizen or green card holder, might experience extreme hardship if you are not allowed to live in the U.S.

Some crimes cannot be excused by waiver, including torture, murder, or drug convictions.

Seek Help With an Immigration Attorney

If you have a criminal record, it may not necessarily lead to a denial of your green card. Nevertheless, ensuring that you prepare a thorough and accurate green card application is vital.

Suppose you have doubts concerning your criminal record and how it may affect your green card application. That’s when you need to contact an immigration visa attorney from The Cassell Firm.

Our Nashville immigration attorney offers unparalleled legal counsel and services. Contact us today and get an unparalleled experience with your immigration process.