Criminal Charges & Your Immigration Status

All immigrants residing in the U.S. can be deported if they violate U.S. laws, including Green Card holders and permanent residents. Being convicted of a crime does not only put you at risk for deportation, it can also affect pending or future citizenship and visa applications.


Crimes that may lead to deportation are called “Crimes of Moral Turpitude” or “CIMTs.” Unfortunately, what qualifies as a CIMT is not very well defined. The formal definition provided by opinions from the Board of Immigration Appeals is:

“[…] conduct that shocks the public conscience as being inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the rules of morality and the duties owed between man and man, either one’s fellow man or society in generally.”

Due to the vague definition of CIMTs, each case will be looked at individually. However, based on the decisions made in previous court cases, we do know that the following crimes are generally considered to be crimes involving moral turpitude that may result in deportation:

  • Murder
  • Voluntary & Involuntary Manslaughter
  • Rape/Sex Crimes
  • Domestic Violence Charges/Spousal Abuse
  • Child Abuse
  • Kidnapping
  • Assault/Battery
  • Theft/Burglary
  • Fraud
  • Charges of Conspiracy
  • Accessory Crimes & Attempted Crimes

If you have been charged with any of the crimes listed above, you may be at risk for deportation. However, this list only includes some crimes that may be considered CIMTs. If you have been charged with any crime, it is important to consult with an attorney. Crimes of moral turpitude are not clearly defined and there is a chance that any number of offenses could put you at risk for deportation.

Immigration Status

If you have been charged with a crime that did not result in deportation, or if you have been charged with a crime in your native country, there is still a chance that your immigration status could be negatively affected.

For citizenship and visa applications, there is a statutory list of crimes which disqualifies any potential applicant. This category is clearer than “crimes of moral turpitude” however there are still many grey areas. Crimes that will prevent you from applying for any form of residency include:

    • A “controlled substance violation” or in other words, conviction of a crime involving illegal drugs and narcotics. This includes any kind of trafficking or profiting from an illicit drug market.
    • Convictions of a “crime of moral turpitude” with a number of exceptions.
    • A conviction of two or more crimes with a total prison sentence of at least five years.
    • A history or conviction of engaging in prostitution or human trafficking.
    • A conviction of a felony within the last twenty years.
    • A history or conviction of fraud or money laundering.

A number of convictions are not included in this list. For a full list of inadmissible crimes, see the Immigration and Nationality Act. If you are currently applying for any form of visa in the U.S. or if you are beginning your citizenship and naturalization process, it is important to know how your criminal history will affect your application.

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