Criminal convictions in the United States can result in an array of legal consequences, from fines to community service to loss of driver’s license and prison time. If you want to immigrate to the U.S., certain convictions can also affect your legal status here in the country.

Learn more about the types of charges that impact legal immigration status.

Inadmissibility vs. deportability

The law distinguishes between these terms when determining consequences for a crime. Inadmissibility means that you may not enter the U.S., change your immigration status or qualify for a green card. Though you may remain in the country if you are already here on a visa, you may be unable to get back into the U.S. if you travel abroad. Deportability means you must leave the U.S. because the court has revoked your legal status. In addition, law enforcement may detain you while U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services processes your case.

Crimes of inadmissibility

USCIS can categorize you as inadmissible to the U.S. if you receive a conviction for any of the following:

  • An illegal drug crime, even a misdemeanor charge
  • A crime of moral turpitude (the intent to cause bodily harm or fraud), including but not limited to animal abuse and murder
  • An aggravated felony, including but not limited to tax fraud, drug trafficking or murder

Filing a waiver

When you apply for a green card, you must provide detailed information about your criminal history. Lying on this form results in ineligibility for a green card. You can submit a waiver of inadmissibility along with your application if your criminal history involves any of the convictions above except drug crimes, torture or murder.

A criminal conviction does not necessarily lead to denial of your citizenship status. However, it does complicate the application process, and you may require legal advice to proceed.