Criminal charges can affect your freedom and your finances. If you are an immigrant, a worker in the country on a visa or even someone with a Green Card, a criminal charge can also impact your right to stay in the United States.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will do a background check when you renew your visa or apply for one. While you passed the initial background check, you could face complications over charges you’ve faced while in the United States.
Some criminal charges may be grounds for removal or deportation. Other criminal offenses will affect you when you go to renew your Visa or adjust your stats to stay in the country for longer. What sorts of criminal offenses might affect your immigration rights?
Crimes of moral turpitude
Any offense that an immigration judge deems inherently offensive, such as crimes against children, could constitute a crime of moral turpitude. Offenses that go against community values could limit your immigration rights. Any charge that involves malicious intent, recklessness or evil could be a crime of moral turpitude in the eyes of the courts.
Offenses that lead to a sentence of more than five years
The USCIS won’t just look at the charges. They will also look at the sentence the immigrant received for the crime. If the sentence for one offense or the combined sentence of multiple offenses is five years or longer, that could affect your immigration rights too. Actual incarceration for 180 days or longer could also limit your immigration options.
Specific offenses can also impact your immigration rights
There are certain offenses that the USCIS and immigration courts will consider particularly negative. These include:
- Two or more impaired driving convictions
- Habitual drunkenness charges
- Gambling offenses
- Polygamy-related charges
- Prostitution offenses
- Drug charges (except possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana)
- False testimony while under oath
- Smuggling a person
- Failing to support dependents
Any of these offenses could prevent someone from establishing good moral character and securing a longer stay in the United States or citizenship.
The more serious the offense and the higher the total number of charges, the more likely it is that a criminal history will affect someone’s immigration rights. Learning more about the limitations on immigration can help you protect your right to stay in the United States and may motivate you to defend yourself to avoid a conviction on your criminal record.