Criminal Convictions and “Admissibility”

by | Jun 8, 2023 | IMMIGRATION LAW

If you are applying for a visa or a green card the officials reviewing your application will determine whether you are “admissible” to the United States. If you are inadmissible, it means that you will be denied the green card or visa unless you’re able to apply for a “pardon”, called a “waiver” in immigration law and you prevail.
The rules about inadmissibility are found in Section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.) (or 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a).) They include various crimes, indeed what may seem like very minor offenses.
Crimes tend to present a serious problem for many immigrants. Not every crime on a person’s record makes them inadmissible however many do.

In addition, it’s important to note that crimes on a person’s record are also a problem after an immigrant receives a visa or green card. However, these crimes are governed by a separate part of U.S. immigration law, referred to as the grounds of “deportability.” Some overlap exists; anyone who has committed a serious or violent crime is likely to be both inadmissible to the United States and deportable from it.
Here is a summary of the crimes or related activities that immigration officials will be a problem. Remember that not all of them require an actual conviction in court.
• Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude. This is a strange archaic term and effectively covers a large majority of convictions.
• Conviction or admission of a controlled substance violation, whether under U.S. or foreign law.
• Having the purpose of engaging in prostitution or commercialized vice upon coming to the United States, or a history, within the previous ten years, of having engaged in prostitution.
• Conviction of an aggravated felony, if the person was removed from the U.S. and seeks to return (this ground of inadmissibility lasts for 20 years)
• Seeking to enter the U.S. to engage in money laundering, or a history of having laundered money, or having been (according to the knowledge of the U.S. government) a knowing aider, abettor, assister, conspirator, or colluder with money launderers.

Even Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana Count as an inadmissibility problem, even though it’s slegal in many states.
Many non-citizens become inadmissible due to controlled substance violations—whether a conviction or their own admission to a felony or misdemeanor drug offense. Not only do drug offenses trigger inadmissibility, but they permanently preclude non-citizens from obtaining lawful permanent resident status.
An immigration judge can, however, waive the conviction for possession of marijuana if the amount is under 30 grams. With such a waiver, the conviction will not count towards the total number of convictions.

As a non-citizen, you might believe you won’t have problems with a conviction because you’ve had the convictions expunged or because you received deferred prosecution, probation, or some form of post-conviction relief. But that’s not always true, largely because of the way a conviction is defined for immigration purposes.
Finally, do not lie on a visa or green card application with respect to your criminal record. Any time someone applies for a visa or green card, they are asked to state whether they have ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime. In most cases the lies are discovered, because fingerprint checks are a requirement of most immigration applications. And once a person is caught in a lie, they become ineligible for virtually any U.S. immigration benefit in the future.

Please keep in mind that criminal law and immigration are complicated areas of the law and talking with an attorney is always advised. Please call my office if I can be of assistance. (213) 388 1821.

Recent Posts

Contact Us