For non-citizens, the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction may be far greater than any punishment of jail time, probation or a fine. For those non-citizens who are convicted of crimes, particularly those given state or federal prison sentences, Immigration Services will most likely begin proceedings to deport them from the United States. In many cases deportation will result regardless of the length of time in the United States, family ties in the United States, or even the severity of the crime committed.Based on a criminal conviction, a client might be subject to deportation, and in some cases be permanently barred from the United States. In other cases, criminal conduct may preclude a finding of good moral character under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which is a requirement for naturalization.In other situations, the immigration consequences of criminal activity can include delays in obtaining visas to the U.S. and denial of immigration benefits while in the United States.To complicate matters, the Immigration and Nationality Act has developed its own definition for what constitutes a “conviction.” For example, the definition of “conviction” includes a guilty plea or deferred adjudication. This ambiguity in the definition of conviction has led to attorneys erroneously advising their clients to accept deferred adjudication believing that this would not constitute a conviction under immigration law.

Deportation Issues

An alien with a criminal record may be barred from admission to the United States. In general, among others, crimes of moral turpitude, drug offenses, multiple offenses, and engaging in prostitution or procuring prostitutes within the past ten years will be considered as criminal grounds and can make the alien subject to being barred from future legal admission to the United States.Additionally, most drug offenses under the U.S. immigration laws may result in deportation from the United States, depending on the type of controlled substance involved. This includes violations of any law or regulation relating to a controlled substance, no matter whether the law is federal, state or foreign. These laws cover persons with a past conviction or admission of committing offenses. They may also include any person that a USCIS officer knows, or has reason to believe, is a drug trafficker.

Naturalization Issues

When applying for citizenship, it is necessary to show that the applicant has been a person of “good moral character” for the past five years. If there was any criminal conviction during this period, however, it is possible that the naturalization application will be denied.

Additionally, if a criminal conviction is brought to light while applying for naturalization, a person may be placed in removal proceedings. There is a wide variety of acts (some that do not even need to result in a criminal conviction) that will result in a person’s application for naturalization being denied.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.