What to Expect in an Immigration Criminal Record Check
Author: 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: January 21, 2021.
When you are applying for a visa, authorities may conduct an immigration criminal record check to determine your admissibility. Learn more here.
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Immigration Criminal Record Basics
Anyone seeking to become a US resident will have to fill out applications and other forms. A large portion of those forms contain questions that pertain to the applicant’s criminal record.
If you don’t have a criminal record, you have nothing to worry about. 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 sort of 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 a key aspect of a U.S. visa, green card, and citizenship application. The questions on this form range from inquiring about criminal activity that went on in the applicant’s home country to any missteps that may have been made during their time in the United States. First of all, it is vital that you answer these questions honestly no matter how ugly the truth might be. Failure to do so is illegal, as you are perjuring 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 background check that the federal government conducts is incredibly thorough, meaning that those “minor” crimes that occurred 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 important to consult an attorney before you try applying on your own. When you work with Manji Law, our immigration law 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, there are only three types of crimes that 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. who has 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:
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
- 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 US government has classified these crimes as crimes that relate to the following:
- Animal fighting or abuse
Illegal Drug 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 incredibly strict. In fact, the only drug-related criminal conviction that the US government will consider overlooking on an application for citizenship is possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana. However, even if that is your only drug crime, you will need to apply for a waiver.
Ultimately, 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 that you will need to take are largely 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 are seeking a green card through a US Embassy, you will need to fill out Form DS-260, also known as the “Immigrant Visa Application.” However, one step remains consistent no matter which method you go through, and that is to 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 have any intention of committing a crime in the future.
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you will also have to attach information about the crimes you have committed in the past. You will need to provide a summary of when, where and why you were arrested and details about the final ruling surrounding your case. 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 US government.
Documents to Include on Your Visa Criminal Background Check
You will also have the opportunity to file any official documents from your home country on your visa criminal background check. For instance, if you received a deferred sentence from the judge in your native country, you should receive court paperwork discussing what the charges against you were and why the judge opted to defer your sentence.
Typically, deferred sentences are offered to first-time offenders, which would be a great thing for you to show the US government. Much like first-time offenders receive leniency in their home country, they often receive leniency from the US 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. If you need reliable Georgia immigration help, Manji Law is ready to assist you. Please contact us today at 678.902.2999 to get started.
Atlanta Immigration Resources
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- Atlanta Immigration Court
- Complete Guide to I-485
- Folkston ICE Processing Center
- Georgia Immigration
- Guide to I-765
- How Long Does it Take to Bring a Spouse to the USA?
- Immigration Attorney Atlanta
- Irwin County Detention Center
- Stewart Detention Center
- The Hidden Impact of ICE Deportation
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