Immigrants living in the United States must adhere to very strict standards. They need to remain in compliance with all paperwork requirements set by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They also have to carefully follow the law to avoid criminal prosecution.
Every possible change to someone’s immigration status will usually require a background check. Renewing visas, adjusting someone’s status to become a permanent resident or naturalizing all involve a thorough background check. Any new criminal convictions since someone’s entry to the United States could affect their eligibility for a green card or their chances of becoming a citizen.
An arrest alone doesn’t result in immigration penalties
An arrest is a very frightening experience. The state gathers biometric information about an individual and largely strips them of their personal liberties. People may spend days in state facilities where they may encounter criminals with all sorts of backgrounds.
Many people become very anxious while in state custody and start imagining the worst-case scenario. Immigrants naturally feel concerned that criminal allegations will affect their eligibility for a green card or future naturalization. However, an arrest does not automatically lead to criminal charges or any immigration consequences. The state would need to arraign someone for specific charges and then successfully prosecute them for an arrest to affect an immigrant’s rights. Many immigrants facing criminal charges will choose to defend themselves in court because of the possible immigration consequences.
Even a criminal conviction does not automatically prevent someone from obtaining a green card or naturalizing. Criminal offenses need to meet a certain standard to impact immigration opportunities. Crimes that lead to five years of incarceration could affect someone’s status. So could crimes of moral turpitude. Additionally, violent criminal offenses, prostitution-related crimes, drug crimes and smuggling people are all crimes that often have immigration implications.
An immigrant who is worried about pending criminal charges after an arrest likely needs legal guidance. They need to know if the charges against them could affect their immigration options and what defense strategies could potentially help them. Getting thoughtful advice as early as possible after an arrest can help an immigrant minimize the risk to their green card status and/or their dream of becoming a citizen.