Arrest and Immigration

When you're going through the immigration process, whether to obtain a visa or permanent residency card (green card) in the U.S., you don't want anything to jeopardize your possibility of staying in the country. Unfortunately, U.S. immigration authorities look at several factors when admitting foreign nationals to the U.S., including criminal and arrest history.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Embassy in your home country, and other immigration authorities will always be able to access your criminal and arrest records, so you'll have to admit any arrest history on your visa or green card application. What are the implications of an arrest on your immigration process, and how will it impact your ability to obtain your immigration status in the U.S.?

Non-U.S. citizens in Pennsylvania with questions about criminal history should contact an experienced defense attorney to help them understand the relationship between immigration status and arrest.

What Happens to Your Visa Application When You're Arrested?

When you're applying for a visa or permanent residency card (green card) to the U.S., immigration authorities will want to know about your criminal history. While an arrest is not the same as being charged with a crime or a conviction, an arrest can still interfere with your visa or green card application process.

If you've already obtained a visa to the U.S., any arrest can result in the revocation of your visa. There doesn't need to be a conviction for you to lose your visa, as non-U.S. citizens staying in the country on a temporary visa do not have the same rights as U.S. citizens. Typically, a felony arrest will lead to you losing your visa rather than a misdemeanor arrest. Some misdemeanor arrests can make you inadmissible or deportable, including:

What is admissibility and deportability?

Admissibility is a standard that U.S. immigration and border authorities use to determine who may enter the U.S. and who may not. Grounds for inadmissibility are numerous, and while several are tied to criminal history, others are related to health economic status. Deportability is the standard that immigration authorities use to determine if they should deport a foreign national from the U.S.

What Is an Immigrant Hold?

When a non-U.S. citizen is arrested by local police in the U.S., those local authorities may initiate a process called an immigrant hold. The police may have reason to believe you're violating your immigration status, so they contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to review your situation. An immigrant hold allows local police to detain an individual for up to 48 hours longer than a normal detention.

Once ICE takes you into federal custody, the agency will determine if you're violating your residency rights. If they find that you are in violation, ICE will start removal proceedings. Removal proceedings require you to attend immigration court and may ultimately result in your deportation.

Will Foreign Arrests Jeopardize Your Visa Application to the U.S.?

In the past, USCIS has had limited access to criminal records of foreign countries, with the exception of Canada. Foreign governments may be reluctant to disclose criminal records to the U.S., making it difficult for USCIS to see your foreign arrest. However, information-sharing technology across borders is evolving rapidly in the modern digital age, so the obstacles that once prevented U.S. immigration authorities from obtaining foreign arrest records might not be so prevalent.

Given there's a remote chance that USCIS will find out about your arrest in another country, you should still be truthful on your visa or change of status application. If you were arrested but neither charged nor convicted, your application likely wouldn't raise much suspicion with USCIS anyway.

You may be in a situation at some point that requires you to get a visa to re-enter the U.S., and you'd have to supply a police certificate from your home country. The certificate would show your arrest, but if you had previously lied about your arrest history to USCIS, you could be inadmissible to the U.S. on the grounds of “willful misrepresentation.” It could also jeopardize your ability to become a U.S. citizen in the future as well.

Does an Arrest Make You Ineligible for a U.S. Citizenship?

When applying for U.S. citizenship, some criminal convictions can either permanently or temporarily bar you. An arrest without a charge or conviction cannot automatically bar you from citizenship, but it can result in your application's denial on the basis of lack of moral character.

When considering foreign nationals for naturalization, U.S. immigration authorities don't look solely at an arrest or conviction. They examine the nature of the arrest and other factors, such as:

  • Involvement of drugs or alcohol
  • Involvement of a weapon
  • Whether the arrested/convicted individual cooperated with law enforcement
  • If there was a victim, and if the victim was injured

U.S. immigration authorities are ensuring that the foreign nationals they naturalize have the moral character to become good citizens. If you've been arrested while pursuing U.S. citizenship, you should contact a qualified defense attorney right away so you can know what to expect in the process.

Will a Juvenile Arrest Interfere with the Immigration Process?

If you were arrested, charged, and tried as a juvenile, there's a chance USCIS won't see your record at all. Juvenile crimes typically don't end with a conviction but with adjudication. Grounds for inadmissibility or deportability revolve around convictions, not adjudications. Furthermore, under immigration law, the authorities cannot consider your juvenile adjudication the same as a conviction. A juvenile arrest cannot, therefore, be grounds for your inadmissibility or deportability.

A Pennsylvania Defense Attorney for Immigration Issues

It's not easy to know what will happen to your visa or immigration process in Pennsylvania after an arrest. Joseph D. Lento of Lento Law Firm is an experienced defense attorney who understands the precarious situation of non-U.S. citizens and can answer your questions. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to get started.

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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