Multiple Criminal Convictions and Immigration Laws
What is the Meaning of “Multiple Criminal Convictions” in an Immigration Setting?
For immigration purposes, the term “Multiple Criminal Convictions” refers to the situation where an alien non-citizen who has been convicted of two or more crimes that involve moral turpitude. According to current immigration statutes, having multiple criminal convictions will make the alien subject to removal (deportation). Some guidelines in this area of law are:
- The convictions under consideration are those that occur after the alien is already admitted; those that occur before admission to the U.S. usually affect admissibility, not removal
- The convictions arising from a single scheme of misconduct are usually not counted separately
- Crimes of “moral turpitude” are those that violate the social norms of decency. The definition of moral turpitude is quite broad and may include fraud, theft crimes, crimes against the person, drunk driving, domestic violence, drug crimes, and many others
What are the Immigration Consequences of Having Multiple Criminal Convictions?
The main consequence for an alien who has multiple criminal convictions is that they may be subject to removal from the U.S. Depending on the alien’s criminal background, it is possible for removal to occur immediately after they are arrested or apprehended by authorities.
Some other immigration consequences of multiple criminal convictions include:
- Inadmissibility- multiple criminal convictions can sometimes prevent or delay a non-citizen from entering or re-entering the U.S.
- Readjustment of Status: multiple criminal convictions may disqualify the alien for eligibility when applying for adjustment of status, such as changing to permanent resident status
- Citizenship: also, having multiple criminal convictions may negatively affect the alien’s chances at obtaining U.S. citizenship
While inadmissibility can be a result of multiple convictions, some crimes that make a person deportable do not necessarily make them inadmissible in the future. A common example of this is domestic violence.
Domestic violence charges will make a non-citizen in the U.S. deportable, but it usually won’t make them inadmissible. If they are removed from the country due to domestic violence, it is often possible for them to be readmitted into the U.S. at a later date, if they are eligible.
Also, it is possible to file for cancellation of removal, or obtain an inadmissibility waiver. An alien can sometimes obtain these forms of discretionary relief even if they have multiple criminal convictions on their record. However, this will depend on many different factors, such as the nature of the convictions and the alien’s surrounding circumstances (like economic or family hardships).
Are Expunged Criminal Convictions Counted for Immigration Purposes?
Usually, expungement only helps for first-time drug offenses. Other expunged convictions may still be noted for immigration purposes.
Also, even if the convictions were expunged, these may factored into the overall “moral character determination”. Moral character hearings are a part of many immigration proceedings, especially those involving citizenship, cancellation of removal, residence status, and admissibility.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Multiple Criminal Convictions?
Multiple criminal convictions can have many different effects on an alien’s options under immigration laws. Immigration laws are also subject to change, sometimes on a yearly basis. If you need assistance with multiple criminal convictions, you may wish to contact an immigration lawyer in your area for representation during hearings. Your attorney can help advise you on your current eligibility status, and will keep you informed of any changes in the law.
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Last Modified: 03-15-2012 11:47 AM PDT
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