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US Immigration – Petitioners With Prior Criminal Convictions

The following article discusses criminal convictions and the impact a prior conviction can have on a US visa petition.

In the relatively recent past, US Immigration (also referred to as USCIS) officers were not particularly concerned with an individual’s criminal history so long as they were a US Citizen petitioning on behalf of a foreign fiancee or spouse. With the passage of legislation such as the Adam Walsh Child Protection Act, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA), as well as the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) this laissez faire attitude changed. At present, an individual’s criminal record could have a detrimental impact upon their ability to act as a Petitioner for a United States visa. In most cases, a waiver of some kind is required where the Petitioner has been convicted of certain types of offenses. This may also be true even if the Petitioner has committed relatively minor offenses, but committed multiple offenses so as to warrant a USCIS waiver.

In any American Immigration case, those with a criminal record are usually well advised to seek legal counsel from a licensed US Immigration attorney as one’s criminal record could have a detrimental impact upon one’s ability to petition for immigration benefits. The right to legal advice regarding immigration matters for criminal defendants was recently enshrined in the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Padilla v. Kentucky. The Court in that case ruled that a defendant in the United States has a right to counsel regarding the immigration ramifications of criminal pleadings. Although this case preserves the right to counsel for criminal defendants whose plea could affect their lawful status in the USA, it also vividly illuminates just how important it is to receive competent advice before making any decision that could have an impact upon later immigration proceedings.

American Immigration law can be confusing for some, in the past it was viewed by the public as more straightforward. After 09/11/2001 the American government reorganized the agencies traditionally involved in the US Immigration process. The result was the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which has jurisdiction over most of the agencies tasked with processing visas to America. That said, the Department of State also remains a key agency in the visa process. Since the promulgation of new laws restricting immigrants’ and petitioners’ rights it seems that more and more people are turning to American attorneys for assistance because an experienced American Immigration attorney is often able to provide insight about methods for streamlining the overall immigration process.



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