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Can I still get a green card if I have a criminal record?

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2023 | Immigration |

Having a visa is only a temporary arrangement. People who enter the country legally for work or education can sometimes renew their visas. However, at the end of the visa’s duration, they will have to leave the country again unless they have made alternative arrangements.

For many people, the goal of applying for a visa is to eventually qualify for a green card. A green card or permanent resident card only requires renewal every 10 years and can potentially allow someone to stay in the United States until they die.

However, adjusting one’s status to become a permanent resident is not always a simple process. There are very rigorous standards that apply, and even those with visas may worry that they won’t qualify. If someone has a criminal record, does that mean they absolutely cannot get a green card?

Not all crimes prevent adjustment of status

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)  carefully reviews every request for a green card. Many factors, including someone’s criminal record, will come into play. Although a background check is necessary to secure a visa, there will be another background check performed when someone requests a green card.

Those who were able to secure a visa with a prior offense can likely qualify to become permanent residents. Those with new convictions on their record will likely face careful scrutiny. Whether or not someone can get a green card with a criminal record will depend on the specifics of the offense they committed.

Minor criminal infractions are unlikely to trigger immigration consequences, but more serious offenses might create challenges for the applicant. Violent crimes, drug offenses, felonies and crimes of moral turpitude could all potentially impact someone’s eligibility for a green card. Offenses that lead to lengthy sentences of incarceration are also  like to affect eligibility.

Minor regulatory infractions, like traffic infractions, are unlikely to impact someone’s ability to secure a green card. Of course, those in the country with a visa hoping to become permanent residents would likely benefit from avoiding criminal charges and defending themselves assertively after an arrest. Learning more about how charges can affect immigration opportunities will benefit those hoping to adjust their status or respond to a recent arrest.