When you have a visa that allows you to live in the country, your time here is conditional. You have to continue to meet the standards established by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Those standards involve your ability to support yourself, comply with filing requirements and comply with domestic laws.
In addition to filling out paperwork when the time comes to renew your visa or adjust your status, you have to minimize your use of public benefits programs and avoid criminal charges. If you do get arrested for a criminal offense, you should be aware of the potential immigration consequences before you make decisions on how to respond.
There are some, minor criminal issues that won’t do much damage to your status as an immigrant, and then there are issues that will likely lead to your removal from the country. When do criminal charges endanger your immigration rights?
When You face an aggravated felony
There are dozens of criminal charges that the USCIS considers aggravated felonies. These crimes range from acts of violence to failing to appear in court. Anyone who pleads guilty to or gets convicted of an aggravated felony is at risk of removal from the United States.
When the charges lead to lengthy incarceration
The longer someone will be in state custody after a criminal issue, the more likely it is that they will face removal upon their release from state facilities. The USCIS has rules that apply to those whose total sentence will be a calendar year or greater. They will treat even misdemeanor offenses like an aggravated felony if the sentence imposed involves a year or more in state custody.
When the charges involve crimes of moral turpitude
Even if the offense itself isn’t an aggravated felony and does not carry a major prison sentence, a judge can still determine that it is serious enough to warrant your removal or affect your immigration status.
There is a degree of personal interpretation involved with crimes of moral turpitude. If a judge believes that the actions that led to someone’s arrest and criminal charges are offensive to moral sensibilities, they could order someone’s deportation or removal even if the charges don’t otherwise meet the criteria for removal.
Avoiding criminal charges and responding to them appropriately can help you protect your status as an immigrant living in the United States of America.