U.S. permanent residency entitles you to live and work in the U.S. legally. Therefore, you are unlikely to face the looming threat of deportation. However, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible. Each year, the U.S. deports thousands of lawful permanent residents (10% of all deportations).
Other than failing to renew a green card, many permanent residents get deported for committing minor or nonviolent crimes. Therefore, you need to ensure that you are always in compliance with the law and avoid any trouble that could jeopardize your status as a permanent resident.
What Crimes Can Get You Deported?
Crimes that lead to deportation are “deportable offenses,” and the list issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is extensive. Below is a summary of deportable offenses; however, it is not comprehensive. If you are concerned about a crime that may lead to deportation, you should seek the advice of an attorney.
Inadmissible at the Border
Every time you re-enter the country, you will get inspected at the border. If a border agent finds that you are inadmissible, you won’t be allowed to re-enter the country. In addition, permanent residents who have been outside the U.S. for more than 180 days without receiving special permission (advance parole) may be inadmissible.
Conditional Permanent Residents Failure to Meet Conditions
Conditional permanent residents may get deported if they fail to meet the conditions of their residence. Conditional permanent residents are certain spouses and children of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and investor entrepreneurs and their families receive temporary, 2-year green cards.
If you received a green card through marriage, you can get deported if the marriage was terminated or determined to be a fraud. If you received a green card through investment or entrepreneurship, you can also get deported if you don’t meet the terms of your investment within the specified period.
Helping someone illegally enter the United States, also known as smuggling, is a deportable offense. However, if you need to help a family member, such as your parents, come to the U.S. legally, you can sponsor them for permanent residency.
Marriage, Voting, or Document Fraud
Entering into a marriage for the sole purpose of immigrating to the United States is considered marriage fraud and is a deportable offense. In addition, getting married less than two years before getting a U.S. green card and then having the marriage annulled or terminated may cause deportation unless you can prove it wasn’t fraudulent.
Crimes of Moral Turpitude
Crimes of Moral Turpitude (CMT) are considered deportable offenses for green card holders. However, immigration laws and policies are vague on exactly which crimes fall under this category. For example, crimes can include various misdemeanors and felonies.
Ultimately, it is up to the U.S. courts to determine which crimes fall into this category. In the past, these specific offenses were determined to be CMTs:
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Involuntary manslaughter
- Spousal abuse
- Child abuse
- Aggravated assault
- Animal fighting
- Conspiracy, attempt, or acting as an accessory to a crime involving moral turpitude
CMTs make you inadmissible to the U.S., which means you won’t be able to re-enter the country. They are deportable offenses and also prevent you from meeting the good moral character requirement for U.S. citizenship. If you believe a crime you committed may be a CMT, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible.
The term “aggravated felony” comes from federal law. However, it often gets applied to crimes prosecuted under state laws. These crimes can be classified as either misdemeanors or felonies.
Ultimately, it is up to the U.S. immigration authorities to determine if this is a deportable offense or a crime that would make you inadmissible to the United States. The following crimes are considered aggravated felonies under U.S. immigration law:
- Sexual abuse of a minor (which can include statutory rape)
- Drug trafficking
- Trafficking in firearms or destructive devices
- Various other offenses concerning firearms or explosive materials
- Money laundering of more than $10,000
- Fraud or tax evasion involving more than $10,000
- Theft or violent crime with a sentencing order of at least one year
- Perjury with a sentence of at least one year
- Child pornography
- Trafficking in persons or running a prostitution business
- Spying, treason, or sabotage
- Commercial bribery, counterfeiting, forgery, or trafficking in vehicles
- Failure to appear in court on a felony charge for which a sentence of two years in prison may be imposed
- Alien smuggling, and
- Obstruction of justice, perjury, or bribery of a witness, if the term of imprisonment was at least one year
Controlled Substance Crimes
Any drug convictions made after the time of admission can be causes for deportation or inadmissibility. This includes drug possession, other than “a single offense involving possession for one’s own use of 30 grams or less of marijuana.” The Immigration and Nationality Act also states that drug abusers and addicts are deportable.
Certain firearm offenses are grounds for deportation for green card holders. This includes violations for selling, possession, and carrying offenses.
Always Obey the Law
As a permanent resident, you need to be on your best behavior. The best rule of thumb to follow is to avoid any questionable acts or situations that may jeopardize your ability to remain in the U.S. Only U.S. citizens are completely safe from deportation. Your permanent residency won’t guarantee you the right to live here if you commit a crime.
Can Deportation Be Reversed?
Yes, but only under particular circumstances. Instances of deportations getting reversed are infrequent, so you shouldn’t think that you’re guaranteed a second chance. Also, remember that once you get deported, it becomes virtually impossible to become a citizen.
While it is technically possible to reverse deportation for green card holders, it will be challenging to re-enter and lawfully stay or become naturalized in the U.S.