When you’re applying for a U.S. marriage-based green card, the process is carefully examined because of frequent fraud cases. If you have a history of certain crimes, especially convictions, it can make the process even more complicated. Immigration law requires you to disclose your criminal record when submitting your marriage-based green card petition, regardless of the severity of the case. 

How Certain Crimes Might Affect Your Eligibility for a Marriage-Based Green Card

Completing the criminal history section in the marriage-based green card application can be tricky.  You must disclose all past interactions with law enforcement, both within and outside your home country, no matter how minor the case. It’s important to be honest because providing incorrect information can complicate your situation. However, not all crimes automatically result in a denial of a marriage-based green card. The law categorizes different types of crimes that may or may not necessarily result in a denial.

Crimes Involving Drugs

You might face inadmissibility to the U.S. if you were part of any drug-related crime, like possessing or trafficking illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or marijuana.

If you were convicted of having less than 30 grams of a controlled substance, you may still be eligible for a marriage-based green card. However, this would involve applying for a waiver.

Understanding Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

In U.S. immigration law, a crime involving moral turpitude refers to an offense committed with malicious intent, such as physically harming or defrauding someone. Examples include stealing, murder, fraud, or severe domestic violence. Malicious intent encompasses whether the crime was committed, attempted, or planned with others.

The term “moral turpitude” isn’t precisely defined by Congress, leading to varying interpretations by different courts. Past court decisions also play a role in determining if your crime falls into this category. It’s important to note that some types of assault, battery, and certain traffic violations may not be considered moral turpitude.

Aggravated Felony

Like moral turpitude, what defines an aggravated felony in your green card application process differs from the general federal laws. Instead, it is usually determined based on a list of crimes provided by Congress that can render a green card applicant inadmissible. Aggravated felonies, as outlined by the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Murder or rape, sexual abuse of a minor
  • Illicit trafficking of firearms or destructive devices
  • Theft or violence with imprisonment of up to one year
  • Money laundering over $10,000
  • Child pornography offenses
  • Gambling or racketeering with up to a year of imprisonment
  • Human trafficking, transporting, and managing for prostitution
  • Bribery
  • Persecution, torture, genocide
  • Severe violation of religious freedom

Can Immigration Officers Discover Undisclosed Past Crimes in My Application?

When you apply for a green card, you have to disclose if you’ve been arrested or convicted before. Immigration officers use this information to decide if you can be admitted. It’s crucial to be honest throughout the immigration process.

Not disclosing your criminal history truthfully can lead to serious consequences. If you hide your past crimes and undergo biometric screening as part of the application process, your records, including any previous offenses, will likely be revealed. Getting caught in this way can result in severe penalties, such as denial of a marriage-based green card, being barred from future immigration attempts, or even facing deportation if you’re already in the U.S. It’s important to be upfront about your criminal history to avoid these serious repercussions.

How Should I Disclose My Previous Crime When Submitting a Petition?

Whether you’re applying for a green card through consular processing in your home country or adjusting your status in the U.S., there’s a section in the application form specifically addressing past criminal activities and inadmissibility. This covers both arrests and convictions. You’ll encounter a series of questions related to your criminal history. When you come across a crime you were involved in, it’s crucial to answer “yes” and provide additional information.

The additional information should include a detailed explanation of what occurred, along with the date and location of the event. If there’s documented evidence, such as police statements or court decisions, it’s essential to include them as part of the evidence for your application. Being thorough and honest in addressing your criminal history is crucial for a transparent and successful immigration process.

Will Having a Criminal Record Automatically Result in Denial of Marriage-Based Green Card Application?

Having a criminal record from the past doesn’t necessarily result in a denial of your marriage-based green card. There’s a chance to request a waiver, provided you meet the criteria and present a compelling case. However, certain serious crimes like murder and drug trafficking generally make individuals ineligible for the waiver.

Depending on the type and severity of the crime, you can apply for a waiver based on two grounds. Firstly, you may seek a waiver by demonstrating that obtaining a marriage-based green card wouldn’t negatively impact U.S. national welfare. Secondly, you can apply for a waiver by proving that being denied a green card would cause severe hardship to your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. Crimes for which you can file a waiver include, but not limited to the following:

  1. Being convicted of prostitution or related crimes
  2. Past crimes involving moral turpitude
  3. Conviction for possessing fewer than 30 grams of marijuana

Does the Timing of the Crime Affect My Eligibility?

The timing of the crime is a crucial factor when assessing your chances of obtaining a marriage-based green card. If you were recently convicted, there’s a higher likelihood of facing denial compared to a situation where the crime occurred in the distant past. One of the requirements for a green card is for the applicant to demonstrate good moral behavior for the 3-5 years leading up to their application.

In the case of a minor felony conviction, you might still be considered for a green card if the incident happened 10 or more years before your application. However, this depends on how well you can present your case to the immigration officers. On the other hand, for an aggravated felony, you are likely to be permanently barred from receiving a green card.

Applying for a Waiver for a Criminal Record

When and how to file a waiver depends on whether you are applying from your home country or within the United States. If you’re applying from your home country, you’ll have to wait until after the consular interview. During the interview, the immigration officer will inform you if your criminal history affects your admissibility to the U.S. and whether you’re eligible for a waiver. The waiver process varies by embassy or consulate, so you’ll need to follow the specific procedures outlined by the location.

If you’re applying for a marriage-based green card while in the U.S., it’s advisable to file the waiver alongside your I-485 application to avoid delays. You’ll use the I-601 form to request the waiver, submitting it with supporting evidence demonstrating your eligibility or proving that not granting the green card would cause extreme hardship to your spouse.

The filing fee for the I-601 form is payable by money order, personal check, or cashier’s check. You can also include a G-1145 E-Notification with the waiver to stay informed about the processing status.

How Mesadieu Law Firm Immigration Attorneys Can Help You

Immigration officers decide if your criminal history affects your eligibility for a marriage-based green card. Even a minor offense could lead to a green card denial if your application isn’t clear. If you have a history of arrests or convictions, your immigration case needs special attention. It’s recommended to get help from an immigration attorney, such as the team at Mesadieu Law Firm. Our experienced attorneys grasp the complexities of the criminal history section in the application process. Whether you’re in the early filing stage or have experienced a denial due to criminal history, we’re here to offer the guidance and support you need. We can help.  Our dedicated and compassionate immigration lawyers stand ready to help you.  Don’t wait.  Contact us by phone at 844-3-RIGHT-BY-YOU (844-374-4482) or fill out our case evaluation form today.