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How a Criminal Record Affects Residency & Citizenship 

Corbaci Law, P.C. Nov. 9, 2022

Criminal Record and Handcuffs on A DeskHaving "good moral character" is an important requirement when applying for a green card or U.S. citizenship through naturalization. Unfortunately, a criminal arrest or conviction on your public record can make it difficult for you to establish good moral character. An experienced Massachusetts immigration law attorney can educate you about how criminal record affects residency and citizenship application. 

At Corbaci Law, P.C., we are committed to offering reliable advocacy and detailed guidance to clients in immigration-related matters, including residency and citizenship. Our knowledgeable attorneys can evaluate your unique circumstances and explore your possible legal options to obtain permanent residency or U.S. citizenship when you have a criminal record. We're proud to serve clients across Woburn, Boston, Framingham, and Marlborough, Massachusetts. 

Crimes that Can Lead to Deportation 

In the United States, getting convicted of some criminal offenses can result in possible deportation, inadmissibility into the U.S., or other immigration issues for non-U.S. citizens. Here are some common crimes that can lead to deportation: 

  • Firearms conviction 

  • Drug crime conviction 

  • Crime of moral turpitude 

  • Aggravated felonies, such as theft, rape, child pornography, and murder 

  • Crimes of domestic violence, including domestic abuse, child abuse, stalking, neglect, or abandonment 

  • Other criminal activities such as sabotage, espionage, or treason 

Generally, you are required to show good moral conduct to ensure a successful residency or citizenship application. Some of these deportable offenses and criminal history can make you "inadmissible" into the country. 

Understanding "Good Moral Character (GMC) for Residency 

Having "good moral character" (GMC) remains a crucial requirement for obtaining a green card or becoming a U.S. citizen through naturalization. When you file your citizenship application, you must show that you've been—and will continue to be—of good moral character for the permanent residency period leading to your citizenship application. 

Generally, a person of "good moral character" is expected to exhibit the following qualities: 

  • You must be respectable, trustworthy, and honest 

  • You must follow all rules and regulations of federal, state, and local laws 

  • You must be a responsible member of your family, community, and workplace 

  • You haven't been involved in violating the law or committing a crime 

  • You must not be a habitual drunkard 

To ensure a successful application, you must meet the requirements for residency or citizenship, have no previous conviction, and maintain good moral conduct over the statutory period (3 or 5 years) leading to your application. 

What is a Conviction? 

Under U.S. immigration law, a conviction is a formal judgment of guilt that a criminal court enters against a person. A conviction for immigration purposes also exists when: 

  • The defendant entered a guilty plea 

  • A judge or jury finds a person guilty 

  • The judge imposed limitations or restraints on the person's liberty 

  • The judge has imposed some form of penalty or punishment 

What is Moral Turpitude? 

Moral turpitude involves any action or behavior that may be regarded as unjust, unethical, or immoral. Generally, such an act is against the accepted standards in our immediate society. A crime of moral turpitude is an offense that a person commits carelessly, with guilty knowledge or evil intent. 

Additionally, a crime of moral turpitude may be a sex crime or a crime against another person, government authority, or property. Getting convicted for a crime of moral turpitude can negatively impact your permanent residency or citizenship application. 

Effect on Green Card Applications 

As mentioned earlier, having a criminal record or history can put your prospects of getting a green card at risk. A criminal arrest or conviction can affect your permanent residency application in the following ways: 

When the Individual Has a Criminal Record 

If you have a criminal conviction, you may be unable to establish good moral character. This can adversely affect your permanent residency application. 

When the Person Sponsoring Them Has a Criminal Record 

If a sponsor has a criminal record, the USCIS will use its discretion to determine whether the person is eligible to sponsor a green card applicant. However, convictions for offenses against minors, such as sex offenses, child kidnapping, or child pornography, automatically make you ineligible to sponsor a green card applicant. 

Waiver of Inadmissibility 

Luckily, you can waive inadmissibility for some crimes of "moral turpitude" and criminal convictions in your green card or citizenship application. When you apply for a Waiver of Inadmissibility, you can request that the USCIS makes an exception for you. A skilled waiver lawyer can determine your eligibility, help complete your forms, and file your application seeking a waiver of specific grounds of inadmissibility.  

Strong & Reliable Legal Representation 

Applying for permanent residency or citizenship with a criminal record presents several challenges. The USCIS may use the criminal record as evidence that you haven't exhibited the good moral character necessary for U.S. citizenship. Therefore, you need to hire a highly-skilled immigration law attorney for proper guidance. 

At Corbaci Law, P.C., we have the resources to guide clients through complex citizenship applications involving criminal records. As your legal counsel, we can review the details of your unique situation, determine how the criminal record might affect your case, and explore your available legal options to apply for U.S. citizenship. Our skilled team will fight for your best interests and increase your prospects of achieving the most favorable outcome in your green card and citizenship application. 

Contact Corbaci Law, P.C., today to schedule a simple case assessment with experienced citizenship attorneys. Our reliable legal team can offer you the advocacy you need to navigate crucial decisions in your citizenship application. We proudly serve clients across Woburn, Boston, Framingham, and Marlborough, Massachusetts.