It’s normal for anyone accused of a criminal offense to worry about their future. A conviction could mean incarceration, fines that cause financial strain or even the loss of someone’s professional licensing.
The risks are even higher for those who are in the United States as immigrants or who live in the United States because of a non-immigrant work visa. An arrest won’t always mean a criminal charge, and criminal charges don’t always mean immigration consequences. However, anyone temporarily in the United States and charged with a crime could be at risk for deportation.
When does a criminal charge put your right to stay in the United States at risk?
A charge that affects your employment can affect your visa
If you drive for a living and get arrested for allegedly driving while under the influence, a conviction will affect your licensing and the costs a company will have to pay to insure you. Even if an offense occurs during your private time while off duty and does not affect your job responsibilities in any way, it could still affect your employment.
Many companies have zero-tolerance policies for criminal convictions. If the company learns about someone’s conviction or guilty plea, they may terminate their employment and leave that person at risk of needing to leave the country because of the loss of their visa.
Some offenses can directly lead to deportation
There are scenarios in which a judge can use a criminal conviction as grounds for judicial deportation. They can order your removal from the country if the offense is a crime of moral turpitude. There is no specific list of which offenses constitute crimes of moral turpitude. Instead, analyzing the offense falls to the judge hearing your case.
Generally, offenses against vulnerable populations and that victimize others may constitute offenses of moral turpitude. Judges have some interpretive leeway when it comes to offenses of moral turpitude, as each person’s idea of what is morally offensive will differ substantially.
The best way to avoid the potential immigration implications of a criminal charge will be to defend yourself against those allegations to avoid a conviction and the consequences it would carry. Deportation after a conviction could mean permanent separation from family members, so preventing both the conviction and the removal that could follow will be in an immigrant’s best interests.