While many people who are not US Citizens are increasingly aware that they ought to seek the advice of an immigration lawyer prior to entering a plea to a criminal charge, they may not necessarily be asking the right questions to their immigration lawyer, or worse, the criminal defense or immigration lawyer may not be evaluating all of the immigration consequences to a plea. Besides issues of deportability-that is, whether the alien may be deported after already being admitted to the US-there are also questions of admissibility, which can be incredibly complex. In other words, what if the alien who is a permanent resident or here on some sort of visa decides to travel abroad after entering a plea of guilty? What will be the impact of that guilty plea on the alien’s ability to re-enter the United States? For many people, this is an equally important consideration, as individuals may have families in foreign countries or their own personal reasons for wanting to travel abroad. It is not uncommon, for example, for individuals who are here with H-1B status, to remain stranded in their native countries (especially India) because these are found to be inadmissible when they apply for their “stamp” or visa. Many people understandably do not want to stay trapped or confined in the US in order to insulate themselves from removability. Admissibility also comes into play when an alien pursues a visa abroad, whether it be a non-immigrant or immigrant one. (A non-immigrant visa is a temporary visa that allows the individual to come and stay in the United States for a limited duration; an immigrant visa, in contrast, confers permanent residence on the alien and allows that person to stay in the US indefinitely.) Similarly, if the individual is already in the US, even if he or she has already been admitted (ie., on a visitor’s visa), there are nevertheless issues of admissibility if that person wishes to file for adjustment of status.
The grounds of inadmissibility can be found in the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) under Section 212. The statute lists the criminal grounds of inadmissibility including conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, controlled substance offenses, multiple crimes, etc.
In New Jersey, there are two types of criminal offenses: non-indictable offenses and indictable offenses. Indictable offenses mean that a Grand Jury must vote to indict you in order for a prosecution to proceed; non-indictable offenses, on the other hand, do not require a finding by a Grand Jury and are graded as disorderly persons and petty disorderly persons offenses. Just because an offense is a misdemeanor or disorderly persons offense does not necessarily mean that a conviction is not a crime involving moral turpitude. Under certain circumstances, a conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude may bar re-reentry into the US.
Things you must do
Before you leave the US, it is imperative that you consult with an immigration attorney versed in “crimmigration” who can evaluate the impact of your criminal offense on your admissibility. Firstly, don’t just consult any immigration lawyer. Immigration is one of the most vast and complex areas of law, rivaling that of tax law, and within the field of immigration, there are many areas of practice. For example, while we do handle some employment related immigration matters, we concentrate primarily in the area of family immigration, US Citizenship and naturalization, and deportation defense. There are many immigration attorneys who are our mirror opposites and handle mostly business related cases. Secondly, it is important that you bring the attorney all of the relevant information he/she needs in order to conduct an analysis. This includes, if relevant:
· Copy of police reports
· Copy of indictment, summons, or charging documents
· Certified dispositions or Judgments of Conviction
· Transcripts of the Guilty Plea Hearing as well as any Sentencing Hearing
Ideally, this type of analysis will be performed prior to entry of a guilty plea, but even if done afterwards, may prevent adverse and often drastic immigration consequences triggered by departure from the US.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the “Subscribe To This Blog’s Feed” button on the right. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the “Case Evaluation” box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.