If you have a record of committing certain crimes, it may make you legally inadmissible to the United States. That means you would be ineligible to receive either a temporary nonimmigrant visa or an immigrant visa (i.e., lawful permanent residence with a green card), regardless of whether you otherwise seem to meet the qualification requirements for one.
The list of the crimes or violations that would prevent you from admission is contained in Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act or I.N.A. Here’s a brief summary of what that law says.
Criminal Grounds of Inadmissibility
You become inadmissible to the U.S. if you have been convicted of, admit to having committed, or admit having committed acts that add up to the essential elements of one of the following:
- A crime involving moral turpitude (other than a purely political offense) or attempting or conspiring to commit such a crime. Two exceptions exist: 1) if you committed the crime while under 18 years of age and were released from any prison or confinement more than five years before applying for a visa or other immigration benefit, or 2) if the maximum penalty possible for your crime is less than one year’s imprisonment, and you were not sentenced to more than six months.
- A violation of (or a conspiracy or attempt to violate) any controlled substance (drug) law, whether it’s a U.S. or foreign law.
- Multiple criminal convictions (two or more, other than purely political offenses) for which the total aggregate prison sentences were five years or more. It doesn’t matter whether the conviction came from a single trial or scheme of misconduct or separate ones.
- Illicit trafficking in any controlled substance (drug). No actual conviction is required for this one. It’s enough that the consular officer or the Attorney General has reason to believe that you’ve been a trafficker or even a knowing aider, abettor, assister, conspirator, or colluder with others in illicit trafficking.
- Benefiting from illicit drug trafficking if you’re a spouse, son, or daughter of the trafficker within the previous five years. This means having obtained any financial or other benefit from such illicit trafficking while having known or reasonably should have known where the money or other benefits came from.
- Prostitution and commercialized vice. This applies to you if you have engaged in prostitution (within ten years of applying for a visa or other immigration benefit), as well as if you’ve been involved in procuring prostitutes or have received proceeds from prostitution, as well as if you come to the United States to engage in any other unlawful commercialized vice.
- Involvement in serious criminal activity, where you have asserted immunity from prosecution, departed the United States as a result, and not subsequently submitted to the jurisdiction of the relevant U.S. court.
- Particularly severe violations of religious freedom while serving as a foreign government official.
- Human trafficking, whether inside or outside the United States, or apparently being a knowing aider, abettor, assister, conspirator, or colluder with such a trafficker in severe forms of trafficking in persons.
- Benefiting from human trafficking if you are a spouse, son, or daughter of the trafficker within the previous five years, where you knew or reasonably should have known where the money or other benefits came from. There is an exception if you were a child at the time of receiving the benefit.
- Laundering of monetary instruments or apparently being a knowing aider, abettor, assister, conspirator, or colluder with others in money laundering.
Getting a Waiver of Inadmissibility
Immigration law does offer a potential way for you to overcome your criminal record as the cause of your inadmissibility. You might be able to apply for a waiver (legal forgiveness), thus making you eligible for U.S. admission if you meet various eligibility requirements. Because the waiver comes from Section 212(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, it’s widely referred to as a 212(h) waiver.
You might be able to get a waiver if you’re inadmissible due to having committed or done only one of the following:
- A crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT), except murder or torture.
- Two or more crimes with a combined sentence of five years or more (except for murder or torture).
- One offense relating to simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana. This is the only category of controlled substance violators who might be eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility.
- Prostitution or commercialized vice.
- Claimed immunity for a serious offense (for example, diplomatic immunity), and left the United States without thereafter being prosecuted in a U.S. court for that offense.
If you’re inadmissible because you committed one of the above crimes for which a waiver is available, you will also need to fall into only one of the following categories to qualify for the waiver:
- If the crime you’re seeking a waiver for relates to prostitution, you’ll also need to show that you have been rehabilitated and that your admission isn’t contrary to the welfare, safety, or security of the United States.
- If 15 years have passed since you committed the crime, you’ll need to show that you have been rehabilitated and that your admission isn’t contrary to the welfare, safety, or security of the United States.
- If you’re a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioner, you’ll need to show that you have filed for a family-based green card on your own, without help from a noncooperative U.S. spouse or parent who has been abusing you.
- If you have a qualifying relative who would experience extreme hardship if you were not admitted to the United States. U.S. immigration officials consider a variety of factors to decide whether your qualifying relative (a spouse, parent, son, or daughter who is a U.S. citizen) would suffer extreme hardship, such as medical, financial, educational, personal, and physical concerns.
How an Experienced Charlotte Immigration Attorney Can Help
Applying for a waiver of a criminal ground of inadmissibility is the perfect example of a procedure where you need an experienced immigration attorney. It requires a lot of documentation for you to submit on or before deadlines prescribed by the United States Immigration and Citizenship Service (USCIS). You will need to submit Form I-601 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It’s to your advantage for your attorney to review it to make sure it’s accurate and complete.
Beyond that, you will need to collect lots of documentation to help prove your specific case. For example, if you’re required to show extreme hardship to a qualifying relative, you need to include documents that detail that hardship. This could be in the form of affidavits, financial documents, medical records, expert opinions, evidence of employment ties, evidence of involvement in community activities, evidence of family ties, country condition reports, or other documentation. Collecting and reviewing these documents before you submit them with your Form I-601 is a job truly made for a lawyer.
Contact The Fogle Law Firm, LLC
Need help applying for a waiver of inadmissibility? Contact the Charlotte Immigration Attorneys – The Fogle Law Firm, LLC today at (704) 405-9060 to learn more, or visit our website. We are happy to assist you with all your legal immigration needs.