Can You Get a U.S. Green Card if You Have a Criminal Record?

Applying for a green card is often the culmination of a lifelong dream, but if you’ve been convicted of a crime, it can complicate your chances of acceptance. Among the many questions that you’re going to be asked on your green card application is whether you’ve ever been convicted of a crime. If your answer is yes, then — at the very least — it’s going to invite much closer scrutiny. The good news is that it doesn’t automatically lead to a denial. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has acknowledged that some criminal histories are more serious than others.

That being said, the one thing that is sure to lead to your application being rejected is lying – even if it’s a little white lie. If your criminal record is for something minor, it is unlikely to do more than get a second look. But if reviewers find out that you’ve lied on the application, even about something minor, you’ll be rejected out of hand. Be honest!

There are many different types of criminal convictions, and only a few of them will immediately disqualify you from citizenship. If you’ve been found guilty of having committed an aggravated felony, a crime involving illegal drugs, or a crime involving “moral turpitude,” your application will be rejected.

Let’s look at each of those more closely:

  • Aggravated felony – Murder; filing a false tax return; sexual abuse of a minor; drug trafficking
  • Crimes involving illegal drugs – Any drug-related crime except for a single drug conviction for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana for personal use.
  • Crimes of moral turpitude – Murder; rape; fraud; animal abuse or fighting

All of these refer to a conviction in the United States. If you’ve been convicted in a foreign country, there is a chance that the USCIS will review that country’s laws and the conviction itself to determine whether it qualifies.

If, when answering the criminal history questions on the green card application, you indicate that you’ve been convicted in either the U.S. or elsewhere, you will have the opportunity to provide more information on the circumstances involved, and even to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility in some cases.

If you have a criminal history and you’re applying for a green card, the best way to prepare for this eventuality is to work with an experienced immigration attorney. Contact us today to learn how we can help.