Crimes That Can Result in Limitations on Your Ability to obtain Permanent Residency in the U.S.

Immigration Law: What Crimes Can Limit Your Ability to Obtain Permanent Residency in the U.S.?

Are you in the process of obtaining permanent residency in the U.S.? If so, keep in mind that certain crimes can limit your ability to get a green card for permanent residence.

This may not be relevant if you do not have a criminal history. However, if you do, knowing a little about what crimes affect your green card eligibility can help you know how to plan.

Below, you will find the general entry guidelines per immigration law. Our hope is that this will help you know what to expect if you have a criminal record. Let’s get started.

Immigration Law: Crimes That Can Result in Limitations on Your Ability to Get a Green Card in the U.S.

When you fill out your green card application, it is important to be thorough and answer the questions with honesty and to the best of your ability. That means including up-to-date, accurate information on your criminal history.

For your own knowledge, here are some crimes that could stop your immigration into the U.S.:

If you have not received a clear answer in regard to your green card eligibility, contact an immigration law attorney right away for guidance.

The following is a list of common crimes that can keep you from legal permanent residence in the Unites States. This is not a comprehensive list. If you have been convicted of a crime not on this list, contact one of our attorneys to see how your conviction may affect your permanent residence application.

#1: Aggravated Felonies

Contrary to how the name sounds, aggravated felonies can be the simplest misdemeanors to the most serious crimes. After you have been convicted of an aggravated felony, you cannot obtain a green card.

Some examples of aggravated felonies include but are not limited to :

  • Breaking and entering
  • Murder
  • Possession with the intent to sell drugs
  • Filing taxes with false information
  • Bribing a witness
  • Selling firearms illegally
  • Sexual assault

The U.S. takes aggravated felonies seriously. In fact, according to the American Immigration Council, “Regardless of their immigration status, noncitizens who have been convicted of an “aggravated felony” are prohibited from receiving most forms of relief that would spare them from deportation, including asylum, and from being readmitted to the United States at any time in the future.

That means that if you have been charged with an aggravated felony, and your family is already stateside, you will need to contact a lawyer to figure out your options. At the very least, getting a green card is not likely an option as long as the charge is on your record.

#2: Moral Turpitude Crimes

Another crime that can get in the way of your ability to obtain a green card is one that shows a lack of concern for the lives of people or animals. A crime of this sort is done with mal intent and in the interest of hurting someone, physically or through fraud.

These crimes all fall into the moral turpitude category:

  • Taking someone’s life
  • Sexual assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Hurting an animal
  • Spousal abuse
  • Child abuse
  • Theft crimes
  • Welfare fraud

If you are trying to immigrate to the U.S., but there is a moral turpitude crime on your record, you could be deemed “inadmissible” (or unable to come into the U.S. on legal grounds). Talk to an attorney about what crimes affect citizenship and what to expect in your case.

#3: Drug Crimes

Have you been found guilty of a drug crime? There is a high chance that you will not be able to get a green card. Both possession and possession with intent to sell charges can affect your eligibility.

For drug crimes, you must have been found possessing fewer than 30 grams of marijuana for your own use and without intent to distribute to be considered for a waiver of inadmissibility, which allows you to move to the U.S. under certain conditions. No other drug crimes can be waived.

If you do not know if you qualify for a green card based on your specific drug crime, it is best to get in touch with an immigration attorney who is experienced in immigration with a criminal history. A qualified lawyer, such as one of our best and brightest here at Clearwater Law Group in the Tri-Cities, can walk you through the green card application process and explain your chances of admission into the U.S.


Requesting a green card is a long, multistep process, and having a criminal conviction can make it even harder to get approved. While there are exceptions for some crimes (such as minor traffic violations) and waivers for other crimes (such as possessing a certain amount of marijuana), it is nearly impossible for the U.S. to disregard your criminal history.

Crimes that fall under aggravated felonies, moral turpitude, and drug offenses are those that can make it the hardest to get your green card. These crimes range in severity, but the outcome can be the same in that you will not be allowed to move to America legally.

With crimes of moral turpitude or aggravated felony, if you entered a plea at the advice of your defense attorney, an immigration attorney may be able to help. We can review your record and see if it’s possible to apply for post-conviction relief, by withdrawing your plea. This can reverse the immigration consequences, so if this applies to you, give us a call to review your record!

Need guidance in the immigration process? Clearwater Law Group’s legal team can provide answers to various parts of immigration law, including immigration with a criminal history. Schedule a free consultation today.