When you apply for a green card, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) wants to know about every interaction you’ve ever had with law enforcement, both in your home country and in the United States. The only exception is traffic violations—if the only citation you’ve ever received was for a minor traffic issue, you don’t need to mention it. For everything else, you do.
Under U.S. immigration law, certain criminal convictions will make you ineligible to receive a green card. Two of these are “aggravated felonies” and “crimes of moral turpitude.”
What’s An “Aggravated Felony”?
Under U.S. immigration law, being convicted of an “aggravated felony” will make you ineligible to receive a green card. While “aggravated felony” sounds like a very serious crime, the term is slightly misleading. What constitutes an “aggravated felony” for immigration purposes has little to do with what is considered “aggravated” or a “felony” under state or federal criminal laws.
Instead, for green card seekers, “aggravated felonies” are a specified list of crimes that the United States Congress has decided will make an immigrant inadmissible to the United States. Some crimes considered to be “aggravated felonies” for immigration purposes might be misdemeanors—or not even crimes at all—under state or federal criminal law. Some examples of these “aggravated felonies” include the following:
- Drug trafficking
- Filing a false tax return
- Sexual abuse of a minor (this includes, for example, consensual sex between a 21-year-old and a 17-year-old)
What’s a “Crime of Moral Turpitude”?
Another type of criminal conviction that could make you ineligible for a green card is a “crime of moral turpitude.” This generally refers to any crime committed with “evil intent”—that is, an intent to defraud someone or to inflict bodily harm. This is a very subjective category, and whether a conviction is a crime of moral turpitude can depend on if USCIS and the immigration courts have previously decided that that crime is a crime of moral turpitude.
If you or anyone you know is facing possible deportation or dealing with any matters pertaining to immigration law in the United States, our lawyers can guide and assist you throughout the process. Please contact our office at (631)643-3084 to schedule a consultation and we will be happy to help you. We have bilingual staff available. Hablamos Español.