What can a felony mean to your immigration status?

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As the topic of immigration remains at the forefront of public discourse, some non-citizen U.S. residents may feel as though they’re walking on eggshells. In such a time of great uncertainty, visa or green card holders may be unsure of what exactly could put their residency in peril. While our nation’s leaders continue to debate immigration policy, a non-citizen resident’s best practice remains staying out of trouble with the law.

In terms of putting yourself at risk for deportation, getting a felony conviction is about the worst thing that a non-citizen can do. While felony convictions come in different degrees of magnitude for citizens, they can almost uniformly leave a pathway to deportation for those who are simply residents. If you or a family member is looking at felony charges, it’s important to have a grasp on the possible immigration status outcomes..

A much shorter leash

When it comes to criminal charges, non-citizen U.S. residents tend to have much less leeway than those with citizenship. For a visa or green card holder, offenses that are sometimes deemed as misdemeanors—or in some cases, not even criminalized at all—can be bumped up to a felony. These crimes are considered “aggravated felonies,” a classification that also encompasses major offenses like murder and drug trafficking.

Other examples of aggravated felonies include:

  • Illicit trafficking in firearms
  • Money laundering
  • Racketeering
  • Smuggling
  • Failure to appear in court
  • Theft

Different outcomes for different classifications

An aggravated felony conviction can immediately render a non-citizen eligible for deportation, although that doesn’t always happen. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service will factor in several considerations before arriving at a penalty. An individual’s particular immigration status also comes into play, and the following breakdown denotes the general outcomes for each status:

  • Legal Permanent Resident: Likely to face deportation as well as being barred from future immigration to the U.S.
  • Asylee: Eligible for deportation after an aggravated felony conviction, which qualifies as a “particularly serious crime.”
  • Refugee: Could face deportation to home country, regardless of said country’s safety conditions. Could also become ineligible for Legal Permanent Resident status.
  • Non-Citizen without Legal Status: Eligible for deportation for any criminal offense, including an aggravated felony.
  • Non-Citizen with Temporary Lawful Status: Could lose their status for any felony conviction. This would also hold true for two or more misdemeanor convictions.

What options are available to an individual facing a felony?

For a non-citizen, a felony charge is unquestionably a big deal. While deportation is naturally a main concern, there can be lesser consequences that are damaging as well. If you or a loved one is in legal trouble, and you’re unsure about what lies ahead, it may be wise to consult with legal counsel. An experienced attorney who is familiar with immigration law could help you to better understand your case, as well as outline the options that are available to you.

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