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Criminal Convictions and Immigration

Any criminal conviction may have an effect on your immigration status and the process of obtaining or renewing visas and green cards. Even a minor offense, such as a DUI or Retail Theft, could jeopardize obtaining an immigration benefit. Other kinds of charges could also result in you being removed and sent back to your home country. In the most serious of circumstances, you could be deported and barred from ever returning to the United States again.

If you face criminal charges as a noncitizen, it is extremely important first and foremost that you try to avoid a conviction. At Skinner Law Firm, we fight for the rights of all people accused of crimes in Chester County, Delaware County, and other Pennsylvania courts, including citizens, permanent residents, and individuals with or without legal status.

If you are seeking to obtain or renew a visa or green card and have any kind of criminal record, you should have a knowledgeable attorney advising you on this process. If you face any type of immigration matter due to a criminal conviction, including being placed into removal proceedings, our skilled team can assist you through the best possible outcome for you and your family.

West Chester and Media Criminal and Immigration Lawyer

At the Skinner Law Firm, our skilled attorneys can represent you whether you have a criminal matter that threatens your immigration status or if you have an immigration issue that results from a criminal conviction. We are both criminal defense and immigration lawyers, which means we are prepared when these two areas of law meet — as they often do.

Call us today at (610) 436-1410 to schedule a consultation. We serve clients throughout Chester County, Delaware County, and Philadelphia. We also represent clients throughout the tristate area before the Immigration Courts.

Renewals and Criminal Records

If arrested or convicted of any criminal offense, it may have a strong effect on your ability to renew a green card, visa or simply to maintain a status. For example, green cards expire after 10 years.  At that point, a permanent resident must renew his or her green card.

Any criminal records can come up at that time. Alternatively, if you are traveling within the United States and are charged or convicted of a crime, you may be unable to extend your stay. In addition, an individual may be unable to renew his DACA/DAPA (“Deferred Action”) status as a result of significantly new or multiple criminal charges. There are endless possibilities where criminal convictions and renewals occur.

Prior to renewal, USCIS will fingerprint and thoroughly check the background of anyone applying for a renewal, a process called biometrics. A person with a minor conviction may able to renew his or her visa or green card. More serious convictions require more serious investigation. One of the most important steps is proper disclosure.

Any omissions in the process could lead to USCIS believing you to be dishonest. If you have anything on your record, whether it is a conviction or simply an arrest, it is critical that you have a diligent attorney reviewing your case and preparing all filings on your behalf.

If charges are dismissed or withdrawn, you may be entitled to an expungement. In certain circumstances, USCIS may not consider expunged charges in your attempt to obtain or renew a visa, green card or status.

If you only have a summary criminal record in Pennsylvania, you may be eligible to have that record expunged after a certain amount of time. Many immigration attorneys do not engage in expungement. At Skinner Law Firm, we are experienced with all types of criminal expungements.

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Denial of Visas, Green Cards and Citizenship for Certain Offenses

A conviction of certain criminal offenses will nearly always lead to serious immigration consequences. These include:

A permanent resident seeking to become naturalized as a citizen must overcome any criminal history concerns and also be a person of “good moral character.” For example, a habitual drunkard, a gambler, or a person who spends more than 180 days in jail may not be able to make that showing without sufficient rehabilitation.

Even if you have lived in the United States for many years, you could be refused both renewal of your green card or visa or denial of naturalization and be placed in removal proceedings. It is during these times that you will want the advice and expertise of an immigration attorney assisting you in your journey.

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Removal and Criminal Convictions

If you are in the United States as a visa or green card holder, or as a person without legal status, and are convicted of any crime as outlined in the above section, you will likely be placed in removal proceedings. The end result is that you may be deported — sent back to a country where you have few or no ties, no family and may not even speak the language.

If you are convicted of a crime and are sentenced to jail or prison, you will not be released until you become eligible for parole. Even at this point, you may not be released if there is an immigration detainer preventing you from leaving jail. Thus, you may be required to remain in detention during any future immigration proceedings.

If you are released from jail, you may still be confronted by Immigration Officers who will either take you into custody or issue you a Notice to Appear, thus placing you into removal proceedings.

If you or a loved one are convicted of a crime and now face deportation through removal proceedings, you have a right to obtain an attorney to fight the government’s grounds for deportation. An attorney will assist you with the best possible outcome. Even with a conviction for a deportable offense, there may be defenses available to you that can help you stay in the United States.

Aggravated Felony Crimes in Pennsylvania 

Under immigration law, there are two types of criminal convictions that have the most devastating consequences aggravated felonies and crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMTs). 

An aggravated felony is a term used to describe a criminal conviction that has serious immigration consequences for non-citizens. Generally, an aggravated felony bars a non-citizen from any removal defense. In addition, once deported, a person convicted of an aggravated felony is permanently barred from ever returning to the United States. An aggravated felony does not have to be designated as “aggravated” or be a “felony” under criminal law.  

Legislators have enumerated the various crimes that are considered aggravated felonies under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43). Originally, the statute only listed murder, drug trafficking, certain firearm offenses, and offenses related to explosive devices. However, the list has been constantly expanded and now contains over thirty criminal offenses, including crimes of theft, fraud, sex crimes, and other specific crimes. 

Crimes of Violence in Pennsylvania 

Some aggravated felonies, like murder or arson, can easily be distinguished, while other convictions are regularly debated. Among the crimes enumerated in 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43), one of the most vaguely defined aggravated felony is a “crime of violence” 

Crimes of violence are not listed in the immigration statute. Rather, Congress has designated certain crimes as “crimes of violence” if they meet either of the following elements: 

  1. An element of the criminal offense is the use, attempted us, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another;  or  

  1. The offense is a felony that by its nature involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense. 

Every year, more and more statutes – federal and state – are determined to be “crimes of violence” under the aggravated felony category. A crime of violence may be a misdemeanor or felony; it may contain intentional acts or mere recklessness; and, it often does vary from state to state.  

Having the right attorney can be the difference between success and deportation. The attorneys at Skinner Law Firm have considerable experience in both criminal law and immigration law. Contact the Skinner Law Firm to discuss your unique case. 

Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMTs) 

In some instances, crimes involving moral turpitude or (CIMTs) may affect eligibility for certain removal defenses; including Cancellation of Removal or an I-601A waiver. A non-citizen is considered removable or deportable after a CIMT conviction if:  

  • The non-citizen commits a CIMT within five years of admission to the United States, or 
    The non-citizen commits two CIMT at any time after admission to the United States.  

A crime involving moral turpitude is difficult to distinguish because the courts have vaguely defined it as a reprehensible act with the mens rea (mental state) of at least recklessness. Matter of Silva-Trevino.

Generally, crimes with malicious or reckless intent are considered CIMTs; including domestic violence and fraud cases. The term’s broad definition ensures most criminal acts are considered CIMTs. As a result, it is important to have a skilled attorney handling both your criminal and immigration case.  

An experienced attorney will attempt to avoid a conviction of a CIMT or plea specifically to the conduct that is not considered a CIMT in criminal court. If this is not possible, there is still hope for the immigration case. The law provides an exception to the general rule that a CIMT will bar a non-citizen from immigration relief. This exception is commonly referred to as the petty offense exception.

The petty offense exception exempts a non-citizen from deportation if he or she only has a single CIMT conviction for which the maximum sentence for the offense one year or less and he or she was sentenced to a term of imprisonment no longer than six months.  

It is important to note that the petty offense does not apply if the non-citizen was sentenced to a term of imprisonment longer than six months, no matter the length of time actually served.

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Finding an Immigration and Criminal Attorney in Chester County

At Skinner Law Firm, we are both a criminal and immigration law firm. When immigration and criminal matters intersect, we are able to handle all aspects. If you face criminal charges in West Chester in Chester County, Media in Delaware County or throughout southeast Pennsylvania, or if you have an immigration concern relating to a current or past criminal charge or conviction, we have the experience to help you.

Call us today at (610) 436-1410 to schedule a consultation.

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Contact us today to schedule a consultation. All fields are required.

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