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Green Card Holder & Misdemeanor Trouble? Deportation Risks in 2024

A permanent resident (green card holder) can be deported for certain misdemeanors. Under U.S. immigration law, certain criminal convictions can make a permanent resident deportable. These include crimes involving moral turpitude, aggravated felonies, domestic violence offenses, drug offenses, and other offenses listed in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt
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What is a Permanent Resident?

According to International Students and Scholars Office, a Permanent Resident card, or “green card,” is a plastic card with the individual’s biographic information, photo, fingerprint, and expiration date issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services [1].

The card grants the holder the right to live and work in the United States indefinitely. While the card was originally green, it is now yellowish with a magnetic barcode on the back.

Despite its name, the green card does not confer U.S. citizenship. Instead, it signifies lawful permanent resident status, which remains valid unless it is abandoned or revoked by the U.S. government.

Green card holders enjoy many of the rights of U.S. citizens, such as the ability to live permanently in the U.S., work in any legal job, and be protected by all U.S. laws. However, they are not eligible to vote in federal elections and can be deported if they commit certain actions that make them removable under immigration law.

What Happens When a Permanent Resident is Arrested?

According to AllLaw, if a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) is arrested by law enforcement, it could lead to the revocation of their immigrant visa and deportation, even without a criminal conviction [2]. A record of criminal activity can result in the loss of permanent resident status and deportation from the U.S., regardless of whether there was a criminal conviction.

The biggest question, if you have been arrested for a crime and been through the criminal court system, is what was the final result? In many instances, whether you can be found deportable depends on whether you were actually “convicted” of a crime. The term “conviction” means, under the immigration laws, that you were both found guilty and had some sort of punishment imposed. Also, in most U.S. court circuits, you were convicted of a crime only if the decision in your case is final, that is, not under appeal – AllLaw.

However, there are situations where a person would not be considered convicted of a crime. For instance, there is no conviction after a juvenile delinquency finding in juvenile court, an acquittal, or a dismissal before or after deferred prosecution or a deferred verdict, provided the individual did not separately plead guilty or no contest, or admit facts sufficient to justify a conviction.

What Crimes Can You Be Deported For Even Without a Conviction?

“For a green card holder, indications that you have abused or are addicted to drugs can make you deportable. These are sometimes referred to as “conduct-based” grounds of deportability because they depend on the U.S. government’s assessment of your actions and admissions, not on whether you were convicted of a crime.

A wider range of crimes can also make a person “inadmissible.” While this is less likely to affect you as a green card holder, it’s a significant concern for individuals applying for green cards or U.S. visas. However, if you travel outside the United States for 180 days or more, or commit a crime while abroad, your inadmissibility could become an issue when you try to return.

How to Apply for a Green Card When You Have a Criminal Conviction

When applying for a family or marriage green card, whether from within the United States or abroad, a significant part of the application process involves detailing your criminal history. While not having a criminal record eliminates this concern, many applicants find this section stressful, as any police record could lead to a denial.

As part of the visa or green card application process, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) conducts criminal record checks for both the U.S. citizen or green card holder sponsoring their family member and the family member applying for the green card.

When completing your green card application, it’s crucial to be truthful and provide comprehensive information to USCIS. You should disclose every instance where you were cited, arrested, or charged with a crime, even if the charges were later dropped or your criminal record was expunged. However, traffic violations typically do not need to be reported unless they are more serious.

It’s important to note that lying on an immigration form can render you ineligible for a green card, even if the incident you were attempting to hide would not have disqualified you on its own.

While certain criminal histories can make you inadmissible for a green card, such as aggravated felonies, crimes involving moral turpitude, and drug-related offenses, there are circumstances where a waiver of inadmissibility may be possible, leading to the approval of your green card application.

Aliens Removed by Criminal Status and Nationality: Fiscal Year 2016

Table 41. Aliens Removed By Criminal Status And Region Of Nationality: Fiscal Year 2016
Region of Nationality Total Criminal 1 Non-Criminal
   Total 340,056 135,570 204,486
Africa 1,449 394 1,055
Asia 3,104 760 2,344
Europe 1,421 656 765
North America 327,054 131,575 195,479
Oceania 233 161 72
South America 6,760 2,017 4,743
Unknown 35 7 28

Source: Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [3]

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