What to Expect in an Immigration Criminal Record Check title

What to Expect in an Immigration Criminal Record Check

Immigration Attorney Atlanta Jameel Manji author 1Author: Jameel Manji, Founder, Manji Law, P.C.

Mr. Manji founded Manji Law in 2016 to follow his passion of helping people navigate the complicated immigration system. Mr. Manji graduated from Georgia State University College of Law and received Master of Taxation from the Georgia State’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business. Published on: January 07, 2021, Last Updated on: September 29, 2023.

When you are applying for a visa, authorities may conduct an immigration criminal record check to determine your admissibility. Learn more here.

Book a Consultation

We look forward to speaking with you. The first consultation fee is applied to the cost of your legal services.

Jameel Manji

Jameel Manji, Manji Law

Manji Law is your complete immigration solution. If you are seeking assistance with the Atlanta Immigration Court, please give us a call. Manji Law can provide valuable insight, assistance, and a guiding hand to help you achieve your goals.

Immigration Criminal Record Basics

Anyone seeking to become a U.S. resident must fill out applications and other forms. Many of those forms contain criminal history questions about the applicant’s criminal record.

You have nothing to worry about if you don’t have a criminal record. However, for applicants seeking a visa or green card who have been convicted of even the most minor of crimes, having to disclose that information to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can cause a great deal of anxiety as any criminal history can cause the federal government to deny your application when you are seeking immigration with a criminal record.

Thankfully, there are options. If you have a criminal record, whether in the U.S. or your home country, and you are looking to immigrate to the United States, Manji Law is on your side. Together, we’ll figure out a solution to this issue so you can begin your new life in the United States as seamlessly as possible. Contact our trusted immigration law firm today for top-rated legal advice and advocacy.

What to Know Before Your Immigration Criminal Record Check

An immigration criminal record check is critical to a U.S. visa, green card, and citizenship application. The questions on this form range from inquiring about illegal activity in the applicant’s home country to any missteps that may have been made during their time in the United States. First, you must answer these questions honestly, no matter how ugly the truth might be. Failure to do so is a criminal offense, as you perjure yourself in writing to the federal government.

While it may be tempting to lie about crimes, especially minor ones, that occurred outside the United States, the federal government’s background check is comprehensive, meaning those “minor” crimes in another country will still come up. 

Even though the truths about your past may be less than ideal, there are still ways to be deemed admissible to the United States with the help of a skilled immigration lawyer. However, if you are found to have lied on any part of your application, including the criminal history section, your odds of obtaining residency are greatly diminished. That’s why it’s essential to consult an experienced immigration attorney before applying independently.

When you work with Manji Law, our immigration attorneys can help guide you through the process from start to finish so you can relax and focus on building your new life.

Types of Questions Asked on a U.S. Immigration Criminal Record Check

The U.S. immigration criminal record questions are relatively straightforward. Again, you should answer them truthfully, as failure to do so could eliminate you from consideration for admission. 

It is also worth noting that not all crimes render you unable to obtain a green card. In fact, only three types of crimes will automatically preclude you from immigrating to the United States. These include the following:

  • Crimes involving illegal drugs
  • Crimes involving moral turpitude
  • Aggravated felonies

Obviously, it would be better if you had no criminal record at all, but there are a variety of reasons that someone may have a blemish on their records. Fortunately, crimes that fall outside of those three categories can typically be explained to the government in a way that allows you to continue your pursuit of the American Dream. This requires an experienced immigration lawyer with a criminal law background, however, so don’t hesitate to contact Manji Law for assistance and additional legal information.

Immigration Criminal Convictions & Inadmissibility

Anyone seeking to enter or live in the U.S. with a prior criminal conviction should educate themselves on what types of immigration criminal convictions will bar them from immigrating to the United States. Here is a deeper look at those crimes:

Aggravated Felonies

The definition of an aggravated felony was expanded in 1996. Under the new definition that Congress passed, anyone convicted of a crime that falls under the following categories on or after November 29, 1990, can not obtain citizenship, get a green card, or obtain any other type of U.S. visa:

  • Drug trafficking
  • Murder
  • Filing a false tax return
  • Sexual abuse of a minor
  • Theft that resulted in at least one year of imprisonment
  • Gambling charges that resulted in at least one year of imprisonment
  • Money laundering offenses of more than $10,000

Crimes of Moral Turpitude

Crimes that pertain to immorality are often a little harder to understand, as what is considered immoral in one society may be accepted in another. Furthermore, not every individual has the same moral compass. However, the U.S. government has classified these crimes as crimes that relate to the following:

  • Fraud
  • Rape
  • Murder
  • Animal fighting or abuse

Illegal Drug Involvement Crimes

This portion of the application is a bit more far-reaching. The laws regarding illegal drug crimes that deem a person inadmissible for immigration purposes are stringent.

In fact, the only one drug conviction that the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) will consider overlooking on a citizenship application is possessing 30 grams or less of marijuana. However, even if that is your only drug crime, you must apply for a waiver.

If you have a criminal record, you are not automatically disqualified from U.S. immigration. You can work with an immigration law attorney to apply for the needed waivers that allow you to continue your pursuit of American citizenship and the benefits that come with it.

Immigration Criminal Record Steps

The immigration criminal record steps you will need to take are primarily contingent on where you obtain your application for a green card. The standard form used to discuss your criminal records is Form I-485, also known as the “Application to Adjust Status.”

If you seek a green card through a U.S. Embassy, you must fill out Form DS-260, also known as the “Immigrant Visa Application.” However, one step remains consistent no matter which method you go through: consult a top-rated criminal immigration lawyer.

As your attorney will show you, both forms have roughly 20 questions that pertain to criminal history. Most of the questions will focus on previous crimes, the details surrounding them, and whether or not you intend to commit a crime in the future.

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you must also attach information about your past crimes. You must summarize when, where, and why you were arrested and details about your case’s final ruling.

If you were found “not guilty” in your home country, this is a great opportunity to discuss why the charges against you were dropped, which can play into your favor when under review by the U.S. government. 

Documents to Include on Your Visa Criminal Background Check

You can also file any official documents from your home country on your visa criminal background check. For instance, if you received a deferred sentence from a judge in your native country, you should receive court paperwork discussing the charges against you and why the judge opted to defer your sentence.

Typically, deferred sentences are offered to first-time offenders, which would be great for you to show the U.S. government. Much like first-time offenders receive leniency in their home country, they often receive leniency from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

While this specific option is not available to everyone, there is a high likelihood that something else will be. Your attorney can help you determine exactly which documents will work in your favor and construct a plan to present them in the most positive light possible.


Contact an Experienced Immigration Lawyer

As you can see, having a criminal record does not necessarily mean that your dreams of immigrating to the United States are over. There is always additional information and documentation that you can provide to explain your past mistakes or crimes.

That’s why it’s crucial to have an experienced immigration lawyer by your side throughout the process. At Manji Law, we specialize in both immigration and criminal law, making us the perfect team to help you navigate the complex world of immigration criminal record checks.

If you need reliable Georgia immigration assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us today at 678.210.3018. We understand the importance of your immigration process and will work tirelessly to help you achieve your goals. Together, we can overcome obstacles and make your dreams a reality in the United States.

Don’t let a criminal record keep you from pursuing your American dream. Contact us today, and let’s get started on your immigration journey.

Immigration Resources

Georgia Immigration Law Explained

Georgia Immigration Law is much the same as immigration law throughout the USA. However, there are also regulations specific to Georgia like E-Verify regulations and rules for state/city law enforcement, and there are local sites and agencies to be aware of.

Get trusted advice on Georgia Immigration

Your Guide to the Atlanta Immigration Court

Navigating the Atlanta GA Court can be very difficult as there are many agencies involved and lots of moving parts. This page will walk you through the basics of what to expect if you’ve been detained or received a notice to appear in this court in Atlanta, Georgia.

Your all-in-one guide to the Atlanta Immigration Court


Complete Guide to I-485

The process, which begins with form I-485, can be complicated. This page will guide you through the basics of an Adjustment Of Status and let you know what to expect.

Get all the details in one place about I-485

#1 Guide on I-765

When coming to the USA, finding a job is probably one of the first things you’ll want to do. However, before you can begin working in the U.S. you should obtain a work permit. Read on to find out how you can use Form I-765 to apply for the right to work in the United States.

I-765 Information and Tips