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Is It Risky To Travel Internationally as a Legal Resident With a Criminal Arrest Or Conviction?

We believe in celebrating holidays, births, weddings and graduations with family near and far, old and new.  Non-U.S. citizens face a series of challenges (which can be overcome) on their path to citizenship, including whether they can leave the United States and successfully return. Though the immigration journey certainly contributes to it, a major challenge is how likely it is that many non-U.S. citizens have family, friends, and a former life outside of this country. People are put in a position where they may have to decide whether it is worth the risk of briefly returning to their country of origin to visit with a loved one or to attend a family-oriented event, like a wedding or a funeral. You may ask - can I leave the U.S. and come back in without a problem? 

We will look at this through the lens of someone who is a legal permanent resident and also has a criminal arrest or conviction. If you have other travel-related questions, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our trusted crimmigration attorneys. 

Does International Travel Impose a Risk?

Many green card holders assume that once they have a green card, they inherit most or all of the same rights as U.S. citizens. It is entirely understandable why someone would believe this, but sadly, it is untrue. After going through the long, difficult immigration journey, people deserve to have a sense of security and certainty about their future. While legal permanent resident / green card status gives you a lot of peace of mind, unless you are a citizen you are still subject to deportation laws. Some legal residents who have lived in the United States for a long time find themselves in deportation proceedings or are subjected to inadmissibility laws because they traveled internationally while having a charge or conviction on their record. This is precisely the situation we want you to avoid. 

When a legal resident is convicted of certain crimes, their admission is reevaluated upon attempted return to the U.S.. Legal eligibility for admission is assessed under the same laws as when you first were granted permission to enter or to become a legal resident  in this country. Remember this: If you are a green card holder convicted of anything more significant than a traffic violation or a DUI where no one was hurt, traveling internationally could create a trigger that makes you inadmissible to the United States. Additionally, you will be pulled into a secondary inspection upon your return. Your admission to the country would then be determined at a later Deferred Inspection meeting with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. 

Secondary and Deferred Inspections are additional screenings conducted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. Their purpose is to gain more information about your eligibility for entry. They will likely ask for identification, travel documents, and questions about your criminal record. As frightened and unnerving as this may be, answer the questions truthfully, but what you say could be taken as an admission to the offense even if you weren’t convicted. If there is a concern about your conviction, CBP will hold onto your green card and give you a notice to attend the Deferred Inspection interview in the near future. They will also inform you to bring any documents tied to your criminal history. 

What CBP Isn’t Telling You

They aren’t going to tell you that between that moment and your next interview, CBP lawyers will examine your criminal arrest record. Ultimately, they will determine whether to issue you charges for deportation through a Notice to Appear and whether to detain you for removal proceedings. When you attend the Deferred Inspection meeting, you should have already hired a crImmigration lawyer to prepare for this meeting, and attempt to convince CBP not to issue deportation charges or to detain you.  

Take Steps To Avoid Inadmissibility and Deportation.

If you are a green card holder with any criminal arrest, speak to a crimmigration attorney before you travel—even if you don’t think you were convicted. Why? Accepting a plea or having your case dismissed can trigger deportation, have an impact on preserving your status or earning residency or citizenship in the future. Sometimes even a charge you think was dismissed could trigger deportation proceedings, and we we elaborated on it in a past blog. Before you decide to travel, meet with an attorney who can determine whether there any risks.. Our goal is to prevent an issue before it develops. To speak with one of our attorneys, contact our office and set up your consultation

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The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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