Sweta Khandelwal

Immigration Consequences for Minor Crimes

Although sometimes the hardest part may be trying to get a visa, it can also be difficult just trying to keep it.

Immigration Consequences for Minor Crimes


Although sometimes the hardest part may be trying to get a visa, it can also be difficult just trying to keep it. Regular, everyday people can sometimes get charged for minor crimes such as DUIs, minor domestic disputes, car accidents, or even minor drug possession charges. This article will discuss what consequences such minor criminal actions can have for someone who is not a U.S. citizen.

The first thing to note is that the U.S. immigration laws has its own rules and definitions when it comes to crimes. Thus, it is not a simple matter of looking at the charges one is arrested for or convicted of and comparing it to the federal immigration law. Two of the major types of criminal categories the U.S. immigration system has is “aggravated felonies” and “crimes involving moral turpitude.” Thus, even a relatively minor crime could be considered a crime involving moral turpitude or aggravated felony. For example, if a non-U.S. citizen were to steal something and the maximum punishment was 1 year in prison, but the non-U.S. citizen was able to negotiate a plea bargain down to 6 months of imprisonment, it still may be possible that he has committed an “aggravated felony” under federal immigration laws. The receipt of stolen property could also be a “crime involving moral turpitude.” However, in general, aggravated felonies and crimes involving moral turpitude include crimes that are serious in nature and fall outside the scope of what most minor crimes people would commit.

Also, many of the crimes involving moral turpitude fall under a legal exception known as the “petty offense” exception. If the conviction is only for one crime, the maximum sentence doesn’t exceed 1 year, and the non U.S. citizen is only sentenced to 6 months of prison or less, then the petty offense exception applies and the non-U.S. citizen will not make him or her inadmissible. Interestingly, there is also a specific exception for those who have a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.

The cross-section of immigration and criminal can be complex and sometimes requires the expertise of attorneys in both practices of law. If you have immigration questions or how a crime can affect your immigration status, contact us today.

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