Understanding Aggravated Felonies and How They Can Impact Your Immigration Case

No matter your US immigration goals, few things can have a bigger impact on your case than being convicted of a crime or potentially even associated with criminal activity. And when it comes to immigration law, no crimes are more severe than aggravated felonies. Most of them serve as automatic disqualifiers for a wide variety of immigration-related pursuits, including US citizenship or a Green Card.

The concept of an aggravated felony was first established by the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1988. While the first definition of an aggravated felony only included murder and drug or weapons trafficking, the list of crimes that qualify has expanded considerably since then. The list is expansive and, in addition to murder and trafficking, includes crimes like:

  • Arson
  • Rape
  • Sexual abuse of a minor
  • Certain theft offenses
  • Certain crimes of violence
  • Some—but not all—weapons charges
  • Financial fraud over $10,000
  • Crimes relating to national defense like treason
  • Child pornography
  • Any attempt or conspiracy to commit an aggravated felony

In addition to the crimes specifically listed in the Immigration and Nationality Act, many criminal convictions where the individual is sentenced to a term of imprisonment of one year or more may also qualify as aggravated felonies for immigration purposes—even if the individual does not actually serve a full year in prison.

If you have been convicted of an aggravated felony after November 29, 1990, you will be permanently barred from demonstrating “Good Moral Character” for the purposes of achieving naturalization. Additionally, an aggravated felony conviction may prevent you from obtaining asylum, becoming a permanent resident, or achieving a cancellation of removal in a deportation case.

Even if you already have a Green Card, an aggravated felony conviction could result in your deportation, and any deportation that results from an aggravated felony will automatically bar the individual in question from reentering the US for at least 20 years without a government pardon.

In terms of your immigration case, no good can come of being charged with or convicted of a criminal offense, and in particular, an aggravated felony. If you want to achieve your immigration goals, it is vital that you avoid any and all criminal activity if at all possible. To learn more about how a criminal offense, including an aggravated felony, may impact your immigration case or immigration status, please contact the law offices of Saleh and Associates today.


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