Can a Person with a Criminal Record Still Apply for a Green Card?

green card application

Many people with criminal records assume that they are ineligible for a green card. However, this is not always the case. While certain convictions can make an applicant inadmissible, there may be options available, such as a waiver of inadmissibility. It is important to note that not all convictions can be excused and it is imperative to work with an experienced immigration attorney if you have a criminal record to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.

What types of criminal convictions would make an applicant inadmissible?

There are certain types of criminal convictions that can make an applicant inadmissible, meaning they are not allowed to enter or remain in the United States. These include, but are not limited to, convictions for:

  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Terrorism
  • Drug trafficking
  • Human trafficking
  • Money laundering
  • Fraud or perjury

Please note that even if your conviction is eligible for a waiver, that does not mean you will automatically be granted one. The decision to grant a waiver is up to the discretion of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

How does a “waiver of inadmissibility” work?

A waiver of inadmissibility is a legal pardon that excuses an applicant’s criminal record and allows their Green Card to be approved. Waivers for 1) crimes involving moral turpitude (except murder and torture); 2) commission of two or more crimes with an aggregate sentence of 5 years; 3) prostitution; 4) diplomats who assert immunity; and 5) a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.There are 2 types of waivers. The first waiver requires the Applicant to prove that the activities occurred more than 15 years before the application date for a visa, admission or adjustment, that admission would not be contrary to national welfare, safety or security of the United States, that the person is rehabilitated and that they merit a favorable exercise of discretion.Alternatively, a person may obtain a waiver is a spouse, parent or child of a U.S. Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident would suffer extreme hardship if the Applicant is deported.

The application for this type of waiver is Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility.

What evidence do I need to provide?

Those applying for a waiver of inadmissibility will need to provide evidence that they meet the requirements for the waiver they are seeking. The specific evidence required will vary depending on the type of waiver being sought.

For an immigrant waiver, the applicant will need to provide evidence that they have a qualifying relative who is a United States citizen or green card holder and that denial of entry would cause extreme hardship to this relative.

For the other waiver, the applicant will need to provide evidence that the activity occurred more than 15 years before they sought their green card, evidence of their good moral character and any rehabilitative measures taken since their criminal offense. This may include evidence of employment, community service, or educational achievements.

If an applicant is granted a waiver of inadmissibility, they will be granted their green card.

The Benefits of Working With a Qualified Attorney

If you have a criminal record, it is extremely important to work with an experienced immigration attorney to review and analyze your criminal history and any potential impact on your immigration status. An attorney will be able to evaluate your case and determine if you are eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility. They can also prepare the waiver and help to gather the necessary evidence and documentation to support your application. Without the assistance of an attorney, it is much more difficult to obtain a Green Card, even if you are eligible for a waiver.

If you or someone you know has a criminal record and is interested in applying for a Green Card, please contact our office to speak with an experienced immigration attorney.