Crimmigration refers to the intersection between criminal law and immigration law. While anyone facing a criminal charge will potentially be impacted in numerous ways, non-U.S. citizens, also have immigration consequences to consider.
Unless you are a U.S. citizen, conviction of a crime can jeopardize your ability to remain in the United States, and it is imperative to consider the potential immigration consequences when dealing with any criminal charge. Whether you are here without status, on a valid visa, or hold lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, criminal issues present a variety of possible implications.
If you are not yet an LPR, certain convictions will make you “inadmissible,” meaning not eligible to obtain lawful status. If you are an LPR, many convictions will render you “removeable,” meaning that you could lose your permanent resident status and be ordered removed from the United States. Even if not removed, certain convictions can make an LPR ineligible to obtain U.S. citizenship.
It is important to remember that immigration law varies significantly from criminal law. Even something that seems like a minor criminal offense can cause serious immigration consequences. Immigration law is replete with terms and categories of crimes that do not exist in criminal law, such as: aggravated felony, crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT), significant misdemeanor, and good moral character.
Even a dismissal under criminal law is not necessarily a dismissal for immigration purposes. In fact, many criminal dismissals still count as a conviction under immigration law. Additionally, expungements will cause you to have no criminal record, but have absolutely no impact when applying for an immigration benefit. Indeed, in some instances, having an offense expunged can actually damage your immigration case.
Surprisingly, in some cases, protection of immigration status or future immigration options may require accepting a more severe criminal penalty, such as pleading to a higher-level offense, serving an active rather than suspended sentence, or paying a higher fine. During every step of a criminal matter, the impact of the potential immigration consequences must be considered and weighed against the criminal law impacts of various options.
Many criminal defense attorneys are unaware of the numerous immigration considerations and possible consequences to their non-U.S. citizen clients and may unintentionally make the situation worse by recommending a certain course of action to dealing with a pending criminal charge. Retaining the services of an attorney who practices both immigration and criminal law and can consider and advise of the potential consequences in both areas of law is crucial for a non-U.S. citizen to make a fully informed decision about how to deal with a pending criminal issue.
If you are a non-citizen and have been charged with a criminal offense, contact the Law Office of Kelli Y. Allen for a confidential consultation to discuss all potential criminal and immigration considerations.