If you are not a U.S. citizen and you have been charged with a crime, it is crucial for you to consult with an experience immigration attorney before making any decisions in the criminal matter, such as accepting a plea bargain or taking your case to trial. A plea offer that is a “good deal” from a criminal law perspective may be a bad deal for your immigration status.
Even a minor criminal charges can have serious immigration consequences. Therefore, it is important to understand that even relatively minor convictions, such as shoplifting or possession of a small amount of marijuana, can have serious and permanent immigration consquences for noncitizens, including lawful permanent residents (green card holders).
Certain convictions can make a person who has been “admitted” to the United States with permanent residence (green card) or visa deportable. The person can be placed in removal (deportation) proceedings because of the conviction, an may be ordered to leave the United States. Some people can be ordered to remain outside the United States permanently.
Criminal convictions can also make a person who is seeking to enter the United States from abroad or to get legal immigration status in the United States “inadmissible.” Permanent residents who travel abroad after having been convicted of certain crimes can be arrested, detained and subjected to removal proceedings if they are deemed “inadmissible” when they return to the United States.
Criminal convictions can make permanent residents ineligible for naturalization (U.S. citizenship). In order to become a U.S. citizen, a person must show that he or she has “good moral character.” Certain convictions means that a person cannot show good moral character. Even convictions that generally do not make a person inadmissible or deportable, such as DUI, could lead to the denial of a naturalization application.