There are two categories of criminal offenses that can affect your immigration status. The first is called a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT). A CIMT sounds complicated, but what it really means is that the person committed a crime that tends to be committed by bad people. CIMT is left undefined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and is defined in the abstract by immigration authorities. This means that a whether a crime is a CIMT is determined by looking at the elements of the crime alone. If a particular crime has elements that are typically considered to be a CIMT, then the crime will be a CIMT. It is done this way in the statute to try to deal with diverse state criminal laws.
For the purposes of getting a visa to come to the United States, the INA states that anyone who has been convicted of a CIMT or who admits to committing acts that constitute the essential elements of a CIMT is inadmissible. This means that even if you were not caught or convicted, you could be inadmissible if you did something that would have been a CIMT. This section has one exception: if you were under 18 when the CIMT was committed, the end of your time in prison was more than 5 years ago, the crime's maximum penalty was not more than one year in prison and you did not serve more than six months in prison, then you will still be admissible.
Crimes involving moral turpitude also come up in the context of deportation. If you are convicted of a CIMT while in the US and the sentence you receive for the crime is longer than one year, then you will be deportable if the conviction comes within five years of your most recent admission to the United States. The meaning of the term ‘admission' is fairly complicated in the INA. It's meaning will generally only become a problem if you have taken a long trip outside the US since the granting of your green card or other visa.
Like much of the INA, determining what counts as a CIMT can be complicated. This FAQ is only meant to provide a basic outline of these sections. If you are concerned about how these sections may apply to you, you need to discuss it with the immigration law specialists at Hacking Immigration Law, LLC. We have a wealth of experience dealing with immigration authorities to get successful results for our clients. Contact us today at (314) 961-8200 or by filling out our online contact form.