Consequence of Criminal Conviction

A criminal conviction may disqualify foreign nationals, including lawful permanent resident (LPR) – greencard holder, from entering the United States (inadmissible) or make them deportable from the United States. The Immigration & Nationality Act (INA), as amended, has created severe consequences to non-U.S. citizen foreign individuals with certain criminal convictions.  Conviction is defined as a formal judgment of guilt, or if a judgment is withheld, where there is some type of plea, and/or admission of facts warranting guilt and the imposition of some type of penalty under the INA.

Grounds of deportability and inadmissibility from the United States are divided into two different categories under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”): (1) Grounds of Inadmissibility under § 212(a); and (2) Grounds of Deportation under § 237(a)(1)(A).  Please note that certain grounds for inadmissibility or deportability may be waivable under the INA§ 212(h) and INA §212(d)(3). In some cases, foreign nationals facing deportation may be allowed remain in the U.S. through waiver and/or relief process. All waivers and relief are granted in the exercise of discretion and the applicant must convince the consular or immigration officer to exercise discretion favorably.


Grounds of deportability apply to individuals who have been lawfully admitted to the U.S. and who are physically located within the United States, such as a lawful permanent resident (LPR) – green card holder. Grounds of Inadmissibility apply to foreign nationals who are seeking admission (entry) to the United States, including lawful permanent resident (LPR) who travel abroad.


One of the most commonly applied grounds of inadmissibility and deportability is Criminal Grounds [INA § 212(a)(2) and INA §237(a)(2)]. Aggravated felony, control substance, crime involving moral turpitude, firearm or destructive device, and domestic violence convictions are grounds of deportability.  The following crimes covered:


  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Sexual Abuse of a Minor
  • Drug Trafficking
  • Firearm Trafficking
  • Crime of Violence and 1 year of actual or suspended prison sentence
  • Theft or Burglary and 1 year of actual or suspended prison sentence
  •  Fraud or tax evasion and loss to victim(s) involves more than  $10,000
  • Prostitution business offenses
  • Commercial bribery, counterfeiting, or forgery and 1 year of actual or suspended prison sentence
  • Obstruction of justice or perjury and 1 year of actual or suspended prison sentence
  • Certain bail-jumping offenses
  • Various federal offenses and possibly state 
analogues (money laundering, various federal firearms offenses, alien smuggling, failure to register as sex offender, etc.)
  • Attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the above

Foreign nationals who are convicted of an aggravated felony are ineligible for most waivers of removal and relief from removal, including cancellation of relief, and voluntary departure.  They may also subject to permanent inadmissibility after removal and up to 20 years of prison if they
illegally reenters the US after removal.  


Foreign nationals seeking temporary nonimmigrants status, such as tourists, may have their criminal grounds of inadmissibility waived at a U.S. consulate under INA §212(d)(3).  Even with a waiver, a foreign national with a nonimmigrant visa who has misdemeanor convictions, charges and/or arrests, may be subject to a secondary inspection by the officer in order to review the charges, dispositions at the port of entry.  If the original charge was a felony, and may have been pled down to a misdemeanor, the CBP will conduct a secondary inspection for admission at the port of entry. They may also be sent to deferred inspection if records are not available, or if the case is ongoing.


Please also see GCI article: Criminal Grounds of Inadmissibility/Deportability.  If you have questions about the Criminal Grounds of Inadmissibility and Deportability, and Immigrant and Non-immigrant Waivers, please contact Sujin Kim, Esq. at(251)387-2544/(251)379-8065 or