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Crimes That May Hurt Your US Immigration Status

Effect of Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude on Your Immigration Status

Crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMTs) may impact an immigrant’s ability to become a US citizen. Non-US citizens may have trouble with or be prohibited from obtaining a visa or green card, and even risk getting deported or denied re-entry into the US if convicted of a CIMT.

Although CIMT has no statutory definition, courts have held that moral turpitude “refers generally to conduct that shocks the public conscience as being inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the rules of morality and the duties owed between man and man, either one’s fellow man or society in general.” However, it’s important to know that not all criminal offenses are CIMTs.

To determine if a crime involves moral turpitude, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency will examine whether the offense involves willful conduct that is:

  • Morally despicable
  • Intrinsically wrong
  • Intentionally reckless, evil, or malicious

CIMTs are divided into four general categories, which include:

  • Crimes against a person: Elements of crimes against a person include criminal intent or recklessness, or ones that are defined as morally despicable (i.e., statutory rape, in some states).
  • Crimes against property: Elements of crimes against propertyinvolve fraud against the government or an individual, such as theft, forgery, and robbery).
  • Sexual and family crimes: Elements of sexual and family crimesare difficult to identify, as courts must apply a distinct set of principles to determine whether a sexual or family offense is a CIMT. Factors such as the presence of violence and criminal intent may deem an offense a CIMT. Generally, though, if a person knew or should have known that the victim was a minor, any intentional sexual contact with such minor involves moral turpitude.
  • Crimes against authority of the government: Elements of crimes against government authorities include the presence of fraud such as bribing or counterfeiting. However, offenses involving the possession of counterfeit securities without intent and contempt of court are usually not CIMTs.

CIMTs & Statutory Periods

A condition of naturalization is showing that you are a person of good moral character. In the US, applicants for naturalization must show that they continue to be a person of good moral character until they become officially naturalized. If you are an immigrant who is applying for citizenship in the United States, you must know that committing one or more CIMTs in a statutory period may negatively affect your chances of getting naturalized.

For background, the statutory period for good moral character for general naturalization applicants is typically 5 years prior to the date of filing. If you are a spouse of a US citizen, under specific circumstances, the statutory period starts 3 years prior to the date of filing. Certain service members or veterans must show good moral character for 1 or 5 years from the date of filing, depending on the military law.

Call Our Immigration Attorneys Today

Becoming a US citizen is no easy process. Immigrants must follow a strict set of rules, deadlines, and standards in order to increase their chances of getting granted citizenship. With this in mind, our Santa Barbara immigration lawyers at Appel & Morse are intimately knowledgeable on the naturalization process and can help immigrants navigate their paperwork and court proceedings while informing them of the do’s and don’ts to abide by along the way.

As lawyers who practice immigration law and criminal defense, we have the knowledge and experience needed to help clients reach their bottom line. Learn how we can help you achieve the same by contacting us at (805) 467-6060!