People who have a green card or hope to one day be in the process of obtaining a green card may find themselves in legal trouble, even if their criminal case was dismissed. Having a green card means you are a Legal Resident. Because you are not yet a citizen, there are many ways you can lose it. Even just an arrest for a criminal offense can trigger problems for keeping your status or earning residency in the future, even if those charges were supposedly dismissed.
Criminal charges will almost always have some impact on non-citizens – whether you have a valid visa, a green card, or no immigration status at all. The degree of the impact is different based on your immigration status and the type of offense.
Because most immigrants (a.k.a. non-U.S. citizens) hope to become U.S. citizens, they want to know what sort of disruption a criminal charge could have now or for their future. In this scenario, we will look at the possible impact of a dismissed case.
A Dismissed Criminal Case
There are several reasons why a case may get dismissed— a lack of evidence, for example. Or you participated in a program that offers a dismissal for completing certain conditions. In most of these scenarios, you were never formally declared guilty or not guilty.
There is no single standard answer to explain a dismissed case’s effect on one’s immigration status. There is often a general misunderstanding or confusion regarding the technical resolution of your criminal charge. For example, having the charges lowered does not mean it was dismissed. It also does not mean you have avoided a negative immigration consequence if you were convicted of a misdemeanor versus a felony offense. You may be told by your lawyer that your charges will be dismissed after you complete a diversion program or term of probation.
The court or the prosecuting attorney may even use the word “dismissed.” And sometimes, a person may do community service or pay a fine for their case to be dismissed. Immigration will be aware of these charges, even if the criminal court believes them to be dismissed. It is possible that the immigration authority will not consider it to be a dismissal.
The Offer May Be Too Good to Be True
As a result of your charges, you may be offered the chance to participate in a diversion program or plead guilty in exchange for some sort of agreement. The attorney may say that your charge will not be recorded after your admission of guilt during the proceedings.
After hearing that, people may think their guilty plea will not impact their immigration proceedings. And it is easy to understand why—the attorney said there would be no record of their crime. Only an experienced crimmigration lawyer can adequately advise you about your criminal charge’s true immigration consequences and impact.
Green Card or Citizenship Applications Will Show Every Arrest
When you apply for your green card or naturalized citizenship, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will pull your fingerprint record. Not only will your arrest (and conviction) appear, but they will ask you about it. Why? They will determine whether you violated criminal “inadmissibility” laws that prevent residency or that you have proven good moral character for citizenship.
During the interview, you may unintentionally say something that contradicts your criminal record or stands as an admission of guilt, even without a formal conviction.
STERN Law, LLC
If you are not a U.S. citizen, in the immigration process, now or wish to be in the future, and are facing criminal charges, contact STERN Law, LLC. Because the outcome of your criminal case can impact your immigration status, choose an attorney who can assist you with both aspects before it becomes a real issue. At STERN Law, we consider the entirety of your legal challenges. Let’s find your best outcome together.