Effect of a Criminal Conviction on
Immigrant Visa Applications

By: Dennis E. Chua, Esq.

If you have been convicted of a crime, it could make you ineligible to enter the United States. It could mean that your dream to be reunited with a loved one or family member in the country could not be fulfilled. There are several types of criminal convictions which will bar one from entering the United States. One of them is a conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude.

What is then a crime involving moral turpitude? Crimes involving moral turpitude cover a wide range of offenses from petty theft to homicide convictions. Courts have defined them as acts that are morally reprehensible and intrinsically wrong as opposed to a violation of a regulatory prohibition. Given the vague definition of a crime involving moral turpitude, it is important to look into the elements of the crime in order to determine if the conviction falls under the definition of a crime involving moral turpitude.

Even if a person has been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, that person may still be able to join his loved one and family in the United States. The person may file a waiver and ask that he be allowed to enter the United States despite his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude. The factual backdrop of one our cases will best illustrate this.

Cynthia who is a citizen of the United States met Felix while she was visiting the Philippines. It was love at first sight for Cynthia and Felix. After a one month courtship, Cynthia and Felix started having an amorous relationship. They continued to maintain their relationship even after Cynthia went back to the United States. After a year, Cynthia returned to the Philippines and the two tied the knot and professed undying love in a religious ceremony. Cynthia filed a petition for Felix which was eventually approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service. The case was then referred to the US Embassy in Manila so that Felix could be interviewed regarding his immigrant visa. Unknown to Cynthia, Felix was involved in an altercation some twenty years ago. While he was defending his brother, he stabbed and wounded his brotherís would be assailant. Felix was arrested and convicted of a crime of attempted homicide. He served his sentence but was released early for good behavior.

After his interview before the US Embassy in Manila, Felix was not issued his immigrant visa because of his criminal conviction for attempted homicide. This is only a temporary setback for Felix. Felix could still be issued if his immigrant visa if he files for a waiver and show the following:
  1. That the activity which would make him inadmissible occurred more than 15 years from the date of his visa application;

  2. That his admission to the United States will not affect the welfare, security, and safety of the country;

  3. That he is fully rehabilitated.
Alternatively, Felix could also show that his US citizen spouse will also suffer extreme hardship should he not be allowed to join her in the United States.

Since the grant of a waiver involves the exercise of discretion by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it is important that the applicant submits a complete and well documented waiver application to convince DHS that he is worthy of being issued an immigrant visa.

Atty.  Dennis E. Chua is a partner in The Law Firm of Chua Tinsay and Vega (CTV) -  a full service law firm with offices in San Francisco, San Diego and Manila.  The information presented in this article is for general information only and is not, nor intended to be, formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney-client relationship.   The CTV attorneys will be holding regular free legal clinics at the Maxís Restaurant in Vallejo, California.  Call or e-mail CTV for an in-person or phone consultation to discuss your particular situation and/or how their services may be retained at (415) 495-8088; (619) 955-6277; Dchua@ctvattys.com.
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