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How can a criminal conviction affect my immigration status?

If you are an immigrant living in Virginia, you may wonder how a criminal conviction could affect your immigration status. The answer is not simple because different crimes and sentences may have different consequences, depending on your immigration status and history. However, some general principles can help you understand the potential risks.

Deportation or removal

First, it is important to know that any criminal conviction can make you vulnerable to deportation or removal proceedings, even if you are a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder) or have a valid visa. This is because the federal immigration law defines certain crimes as grounds for deportation or inadmissibility, regardless of the state law or the severity of the offense.

These potential problematic crimes include aggravated felonies, which are serious crimes, like murder, rape, drug trafficking, fraud, money laundering, etc. Crimes involving moral turpitude, which are crimes that involve dishonesty, fraud, violence or depravity, such as theft, assault, forgery, perjury, etc., can flag you for deportation or removal. Crimes related to domestic violence, such as battery, stalking, child abuse, violation of a protective order, etc., can also qualify.

Crimes related to controlled substances, such as possession, distribution or trafficking of illegal drugs and crimes related to firearms or explosives, such as illegal possession, use or sale of weapons can also qualify you for deportation or removal. Crimes related to national security or terrorism, such as espionage, sabotage, treason, etc., also qualify.

Consequences depend on various factors

Second, it is important to know that the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction may depend on several factors. These factors include the date and nature of your conviction and sentence, and the date and nature of your entry or admission to the United States. The date and nature of your application for immigration benefits or relief and the availability and eligibility of waivers or exceptions are also important factors.

For example, some crimes may not trigger deportation or inadmissibility if they occurred before a certain date or if they were classified as misdemeanors or petty offenses under state law. Some crimes may be waived or forgiven if you can show that you meet certain criteria such as having a good moral character, family ties in the United States, suffered hardship or persecution in your home country, etc.

Broad discretion

Third, it is important to know that the immigration authorities have broad discretion and power to initiate and conduct removal proceedings against any immigrant who has a criminal conviction. This means that even if you have a valid immigration status or a pending application for immigration benefits or relief, you may still be detained, arrested or deported.

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