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Understanding the different types of family visas

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2024 | Immigration

Immigrating with a Criminal Record

For many people, immigrating to the United States represents the ultimate “fresh start.” Immigrating to the United States might mean finally living closer to family members, the chance to start in a new line of work, or the chance to further one’s education. Are these exciting opportunities out of reach for people who have a criminal record?

Sometimes, but not always.

For people who are only just embarking on their immigration journey, criminal records will immediately impact whether they are eligible to even enter the United States. In legal terms, reasons that someone may not be permitted to enter the country at all are called grounds of inadmissibility. While there are many different grounds of inadmissibility, which can be related to anything from health to finance, criminal activity itself can trigger various grounds of inadmissibility. This means that a careful analysis of any criminal history is needed to determine if someone can enter the United States.

For example, prostitution, money laundering, and human trafficking each trigger their own grounds of inadmissibility, even where there is no conviction. Therefore, if you have any history of arrest for one of these crimes, it may make you ineligible to enter the United States even if the charges were dropped or dismissed.

There are also a few grounds of inadmissibility which could be triggered by a variety of crimes. For example, the notoriously unclear “crime involving moral turpitude” ground can be triggered if you’ve been convicted of, or have admitted to, the elements of a crime that involves something like immoral behavior.

The confusing nature of crime-related inadmissibility grounds means that it is critical to discuss any past arrests, citations, or charges with your immigration attorney, regardless of how the case was resolved. For immigration purposes, even expunged records do not ever go away.

The good news is that waivers exist for some crime-related inadmissibility grounds. That means that even if your criminal record triggers one of these grounds, the time that has passed since the incident, your rehabilitation, and your U.S-based family needs might allow you to overcome the inadmissibility.

If you have criminal issues in your past, the lawyers at David Hirson and Partners, LLP can help you assess the impact of your criminal record and the options that are available to you. With offices in Costa Mesa, California and Seattle, Washington, we are here to help you navigate these complicated issues.