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The Impact of Criminal Convictions on Immigration Status

Jul 3, 2024 | Crimmigration, Green card, N400, Naturalization and Citizenship, removal


Criminal convictions can have severe and far-reaching consequences on an individual’s immigration status in the United States.

Whether you’re a visa holder, green card holder, or an undocumented immigrant, a criminal record can jeopardize your ability to stay in the country.

Understanding the impact of criminal convictions on immigration status is crucial for anyone navigating the U.S. immigration system.

In this blog post, I’ll explore how different types of convictions can affect your immigration status and what steps you can take if you find yourself in this situation.

Types of Criminal Convictions and Their Impact

1. Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT)

Crimes involving moral turpitude are offenses that involve dishonesty, fraud, or actions that are considered morally reprehensible.

Examples include theft, fraud, and assault.

A single CIMT conviction can render an immigrant inadmissible or deportable, depending on the circumstances.

2. Aggravated Felonies

Aggravated felonies are a category of serious crimes that include murder, rape, drug trafficking, and certain types of theft and fraud.

Conviction for an aggravated felony can lead to severe immigration consequences, including deportation and a permanent ban from re-entering the U.S.

3. Controlled Substance Offenses

Convictions for drug-related offenses, including possession, distribution, and trafficking, can lead to inadmissibility or deportation.

Even minor drug offenses, such as possession of a small amount of marijuana, can have significant immigration consequences..

4. Domestic Violence and Related Offenses

Convictions for domestic violence, child abuse, stalking, and violating protection orders can result in deportation.

These offenses are taken very seriously in immigration law due to the harm they cause to individuals and families.

5. Crimes of Violence

Crimes involving physical harm or the threat of harm, such as assault or robbery, can result in deportation.

These offenses are often classified as crimes involving moral turpitude or aggravated felonies, depending on their severity.

6. Multiple Criminal Convictions

Having multiple criminal convictions, even for less severe offenses, can lead to deportation.

The cumulative effect of multiple convictions can make an immigrant inadmissible or deportable.

Consequences of Criminal Convictions

1. Inadmissibility

An individual deemed inadmissible cannot enter or remain in the U.S.

Inadmissibility can affect those applying for visas, green cards, or seeking to re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad.

2. Deportation (Removal)

Deportation is the process of removing an individual from the U.S. due to violations of immigration law, including criminal convictions.

Deportation can separate families and disrupt lives, and it often comes with a bar on re-entry for several years or even permanently.

3. Denial of Naturalization

Criminal convictions can prevent a green card holder from becoming a U.S. citizen through naturalization.

Good moral character is a requirement for naturalization, and certain criminal convictions can disqualify an applicant temporarily or permanently from showing good moral character.

4. Loss of Immigration Benefits

Criminal convictions can lead to the loss of various immigration benefits, such as employment authorization and eligibility for certain visas or adjustment of status.

Steps to Take if You Have a Criminal Conviction

1. Consult an Immigration Lawyer

If you have a criminal conviction, consulting with an experienced immigration lawyer is crucial.

They can assess your situation, explain the potential consequences, and develop a strategy to protect your immigration status.

2. Seek Post-Conviction Relief

In some cases, it may be possible to vacate or expunge a criminal conviction, which can mitigate its impact on your immigration status.

An immigration lawyer can advise you on whether this is a viable option.

3. Apply for a Waiver

Certain waivers are available for individuals with criminal convictions, allowing them to overcome inadmissibility or deportability.

An immigration lawyer can help you determine if you qualify for a waiver and assist with the application process.

4. Avoid Further Legal Trouble

It is essential to avoid additional legal issues and comply with all court orders and probation requirements. Further convictions can exacerbate your immigration problems and reduce the likelihood of obtaining relief.


Criminal convictions can profoundly impact an individual’s immigration status in the U.S., leading to inadmissibility, deportation, and denial of naturalization.

Understanding the types of convictions that carry the most severe consequences and taking proactive steps to address them is essential.

Consulting with an experienced immigration lawyer is critical for navigating these complex issues and protecting your future in the United States.

If you or a loved one is facing immigration challenges due to a criminal conviction, don’t hesitate or wait to seek professional legal assistance.

The right guidance can make a significant difference in your ability to stay in the U.S. and maintain your immigration status.

Ruchi Thaker