Should I file for an immigration benefit if I have a conviction and do that without a lawyer?
Hi, I'm Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri.
I played a trick on you. I had a two part question.
Hopefully you were able to follow along, because it was a little bit inartfully worded, but basically what I'm talking about today in this video is what happens when someone applies for an immigration benefit and they have a conviction.
The first question, whenever you have a conviction is, should I even apply for this immigration benefit? And that's the first part of the question I asked in my video title.
If you have a criminal conviction, you are going to want to think long and hard before applying for your next immigration benefit, whether that's renewing your green card, which you probably have to do, or applying for citizenship, something like that, or even just applying for a green card, if you're on a non-immigrant visa.
And so, as I just told someone on a consult yesterday, the intersection of criminal law and immigration law is the most complex part of being an immigration lawyer and the immigration law process. They call it "crimmigration", and it's tricky for a reason because you have the federal government and the federal government's interpretation of the law, and then you have the 50 states.
So if you're convicted under a state law, that can have immigration impact, even if you get it expunged or dismissed somehow.
And the feds, the federal government, USCIS, or the immigration courts might look at that differently.
So there's always a question as to whether you should apply for the immigration benefit or if you should try to clean up your criminal record before you apply.
There's things that we can do on certain circumstances to try to make your case stronger. But before you apply for an immigration benefit, if you have a conviction, you should 100% talk to an immigration lawyer.
You should not apply for an immigration benefit on your own with a conviction. That's number one.
Number two is, what happens when you apply for an immigration benefit with a conviction? And we've been seeing more and more that every case with a conviction has to go to a supervisor, so you are almost guaranteed to get a second level of review of your case, which could be a bad thing, especially if they're thinking about deporting you.
There are millions, there's thousands and thousands of state statutes that set out different kinds of crimes, and they all have different kinds of ranges of punishment.
And so you're going to want to look at that very carefully and you're going to need immigration help.
I have a hard time making my way through criminal statutes and the federal law to see if a conviction would allow someone to still adjust status or obtain citizenship, and I can only imagine if someone were a non-lawyer trying to pull that off, it'd be very difficult.
So I'm not making this video to pitch our services. I'm making this video to have you stop and think before you make that application.
I had a guy that I consulted with yesterday.
He's applied for citizenship.
He has a conviction from 1990 in Los Angeles, and he was asking me my thoughts on whether that conviction was going to keep him from getting his citizenship.
And I was like, "Brother, this is a pretty serious crime." It was a theft crime involving over $10,000, so there's a lot to be worried about, but he had already applied for citizenship, which I think was probably not the right call.
What I'm trying to make this video is to encourage you to stop and think before you file. Of course, I always say that applying for citizenship, that's their last chance to deport you, so you always have to view it in that context.
If you have questions about this or about any crimes or how that will affect your immigration future, give us a call at 314-961-8200.
You can email us at [email protected]. Be sure to join us in our Facebook group, which is called Immigrant Home, and if you liked this video, we ask that you please share it out on social so that you get updates whenever we make videos just like this one. Thanks a lot, and have a good day.