Can Green Card Holders be Deported?

U.S. permanent residence is permanent in many ways. The green card immigration status allows you to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely. However, it is possible to be deported.

Each year the U.S. deports thousands of lawful permanent residents, 10 percent of all people deported. Many are deported for committing minor, nonviolent crimes.

What crimes can get you deported?

Crimes that lead to deportation are called “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 be inspected at the border. If a border agent finds that you are inadmissible, you may not be allowed to re-enter the country. 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 be 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 family who receive temporary, 2-year green cards. If you received a green card through marriage, you may be deported if the marriage was terminated or determined to be fraud. If you received a green card through investment or entrepreneurship, you may be deported if you do not meet the terms of your investment within the specified time period.


Helping someone illegally enter the United States (smuggling) is a deportable offense.

Fraud – Marriage, Voting, Document

Entering into a marriage for the sole purpose of immigrating to the United States is considered marriage fraud and is a deportable offense. Getting married less than two years before getting a U.S. green card and then having the marriage annulled or terminated may be cause for deportation unless you can prove it was not a fraud.

Crimes of Moral Turpitude

Crimes of Moral Turpitude (CMT) are considered deportable offenses; however, immigration law is vague on exactly which crimes fall under this category. Crimes can include 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:

  • murder
  • voluntary manslaughter
  • involuntary manslaughter, in some cases
  • rape
  • spousal abuse
  • child abuse
  • incest
  • kidnapping
  • robbery
  • aggravated assault
  • mayhem
  • animal fighting
  • theft
  • fraud, and
  • conspiracy, attempt, or acting as an accessory to a crime if that crime involving moral turpitude

CMTs make you inadmissible to the U.S. (unable to re-enter the country), 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.

Aggravated Felony

The term aggravated felony comes from federal law; however, it is often applied to crimes that are prosecuted under state law. These crimes can be misdemeanors or felonies, and ultimately it is up to 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:

  • murder
  • rape
  • 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
  • racketeering
  • 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
  • kidnapping
  • 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 Substances (Drug Crimes)

Any drug convictions made after the time of admission can be cause 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 INA also states that drug abusers and addicts are deportable.

Firearm Crimes (Guns)

Certain firearm offenses are grounds for deportation. This includes violations for selling, possession and carrying offenses.

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