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I am a Lawful Permanent Resident with a Criminal Record, what are my Immigration Options?

If you have a green card and have been arrested in the past, you may have many questions about your immigration options. If I renew my green card will they find out about my record and deport me? If I file an N-400 and try to obtain my citizenship, am I eligible and if I am denied, will they try to deport me? What happens if I travel out of the country, even for a short trip? If I do nothing is that a good idea?

These are all common and valid questions and ones we deal with on a regular basis when doing immigration consultations in our office-for more information about how to schedule a comprehensive immigration consultation with our office, check out our webpage at http://www.slgattorneys.com

The only way to truly give a lawful permanent resident (LPR) accurate advice on what to do and what not to do when they have a criminal record is to find out everything there is to know about their criminal, immigration and family history. You should probably only rely on an experienced immigration attorney (like me: https://www.slgattorneysflorida.com/john-gihon.html ) to tell you your options.

But here are some scenarios that I have seen that are very common. An LPR who has had his green card for 30 years, has some old criminal cases that do not involve controlled substances, crimes involving moral turpitude, or aggravated felonies and needs to renew his green card and consider applying for citizenship.

This one is easy. If you have been an LPR for at least five years, spent most of that time living in the U.S., are a person of good moral character during that time, can read and write English and pass a civics test, then, absent a few exceptions, you are probably eligible to become a citizen. If your old crimes are not anything that would make you deportable, then I would likely advise you to renew your green card (a valid, unexpired green card is a requirement to apply for naturalization for some reason) and then help you apply for citizenship. I would obtain the criminal documents from your past and write a nice memo to USCIS (the government immigration officers who grant benefits) about how your criminal record does not make you deportable and how you are still eligible for citizenship.

That one was easy, so lets move on to the hard ones. If you have a green card and a conviction for a controlled substance (drug) offense, no matter how minor, you need to call an immigration attorney before you 1) renew your green card, 2) apply for citizenship, 3) leave the country, or 4) do nothing. That’s right, if you have a criminal drug case that was not completely dropped, or any crime involving violence, theft, fraud, or a felony of any kind, before you do any of the four things above, call an experienced immigration attorney to advise you on your options.

Preferably, call an immigration attorney who can offer you a crimmigration consultation regarding your past or current criminal cases. Check out our dedicated site for more information (http://www.floridacrimmigration.com).

Why do I need to talk to an immigration attorney if I have a criminal record if nobody from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has ever knocked on my door or bothered me before? Why do I need an immigration attorney if I have traveled out of the country before and never had problems getting back in? Why do I need an immigration attorney if I have renewed my green card before and never had problems?

All valid questions, but the answer is, just because you have never had problems before because of your criminal history doesn’t mean that this time won’t be the time you end up detained by immigration officers and deported. The immigration laws change all the time, technology changes all the time and the immigration officer at the border or in the cubicle who approves your green card renewal changes all the time. You may have been flying under the radar for years, but this may be the cruise to the Bahamas that ends up costing you your green card.

But John, how can that be you may ask. Immigration law is a hanky area of the law. A single conviction for a small amount of cannabis is not enough to get you deported if you have a green card and never leave the U.S., but one trip to Canada and on the way back that CBP officer may send you to deferred inspection and take your green card.

And while ICE may never come to your door to talk to you about that old firearms conviction or possession of a small amount of cocaine, if you ever apply to become a citizen or renew your green card, you may have that application denied and instead, receive a Notice to Appear in Immigration Court to prove to the judge why you should not be deported.

I am not trying to scare anyone here, but if I had a nickel for every client with a green card who regretted applying for citizenship too soon or leaving the country before getting their citizenship, I would have a lot more nickels. Often times, one rather inexpensive visit to a good immigration attorney can save you thousands in attorneys fees, bail money and wasted application fees because you didn’t know what you didn’t know about immigration law.

If you are a lawful permanent resident and have ever been arrested for anything, no matter how long ago, call an experienced immigration attorney to talk about your case and your options. Not making that call can cost you a lot more than a consultation fee.

If you need an immigration attorney anywhere in the United States, but certainly if you live in Orlando or Jacksonville, please call Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon.
Visit our website for more information about SLG: http://www.slgattorneys.com

You can reach John at John@slgattorneys.com
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