Consequences of criminal behavior for Permanent Residents

The United States is a law-abiding society. Permanent residents in the United States must obey all laws. If you are a permanent resident and engage in or are convicted of a crime in the U.S., you could have serious problems. You could be removed from the country, not allowed back into the U.S. if you leave the country, and, in certain circumstances, lose your eligibility for U.S. citizenship. Examples of crimes that may affect your permanent resident status include:

  • A crime defined as an "aggravated felony," which includes crimes of violence that are felonies with a one-year prison term.
  • Murder.
  • Terrorist activities.
  • Rape.
  • Sexual assault on a child.
  • Illegal trafficking in drugs, firearms, or people.
  • A crime of "moral turpitude," which in general is a crime with an intent to steal or defraud; a crime where physical harm is done or threatened; a crime where serious physical harm is caused by reckless behavior; or a crime of sexual misconduct.

There are also serious consequences for you as a permanent resident if you:

  • Lie to get immigration benefits for yourself or someone else.
  • Say you are a U.S. citizen if you are not.
  • Vote in a federal election or in a local election open only to U.S. citizens.
  • Are a "habitual drunkard"—someone who is drunk or someone who uses illegal drugs most of the time.
  • Are married to more than one person at the same time.
  • Fail to support your family or to pay child or spousal support as ordered.
  • Are arrested for assaulting or harassing a family member, including violating a protection order.This is called domestic violence.
  • Lie to get public benefits.
  • Fail to file tax returns when required.
  • Willfully fail to register for the Selective Service if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 26.
  • Help someone else who is not a U.S. citizen or national to enter the United States illegally even if that person is a close relative and even if you are not paid.

If you have committed or have been convicted of a crime, before you apply for another immigration benefit you should consult with a reputable immigration lawyer or a community-based organization that provides legal service to immigrants.