If you are accused of committing a crime and are in the United States on a visa, you could face serious repercussions that may impact your right to stay in the country. There is a real risk of deportation if you are convicted of certain kinds of crimes, like those of moral turpitude.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sees convictions differently than state or federal court, which puts immigrants at risk of deportation for even some minor offenses. Convictions, for the purpose of immigration, means any kind of formal judgment of guilt entered by a court; This may include something like a DUI offense or even a traffic ticket for speeding or falling asleep behind the wheel. The definition states that the following conditions may lead to a “conviction” for immigration purposes even if the adjudication of guilt is withheld:
- The judge orders a penalty, punishment or restraint of some kind on the immigrant’s liberty
- The jury or judge found the person guilty
- The immigrant entered a guilty or nolo contendere plea
It’s important to understand these differences because the definition of a conviction in state or federal court does differ from the USCIS’s and may have an influence on your case.
How will a conviction impact your immigration status?
The answer is, “it depends,” because immigration laws are nuanced and don’t always apply in the same ways. For most minor crimes, there is a risk of deportation or inadmissibility, but the risk is lower than if a felony or crime of moral turpitude took place. Serious transgressions that could lead to deportation include:
- Drug trafficking
- Human trafficking
- Simple battery
- Filing a fraudulent tax return or avoiding a tax obligation
- Murder or homicide
If you are convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, which is a crime that breaks the public’s trust and is depraved or particularly malicious, you may be deported back to your home country. On top of that deportation out of the country, you could be barred from returning to the United States permanently, making it so that you are barred from seeing family and friends or from returning to your job.
What should you do if you’re facing charges while on an immigrant visa?
If you are facing charges, it’s important to talk to someone who understands your rights and responsibilities, so that you can minimize the risk of deportation or other harsh penalties. Before you agree to any plea or take a stand on your case, get to know your rights and develop a strong criminal defense to protect your interests, so that you can fight to stay in the United States.