Will I lose my green card if I get arrested?


An individual who has been granted status as a “lawful permanent resident” of the United States is known as an “LPR” or “green card holder.” Green card holders are eligible to apply for citizenship after a certain period of residence in the United States (generally five years).

Although lawful permanent status is the most secure status that a noncitizen can have, it is not truly “permanent” because green card holders can be denied admission to the U.S. following a visit outside of the U.S. or can be deported for certain criminal offenses or admissions.

When can a lawful permanent resident be deported from the United States?

Under the U.S. immigration laws, lawful permanent residents can be removed from the United States if they violate either the statutory grounds of “inadmissibility” or “deportability.” The grounds of inadmissibility apply when a lawful permanent resident attempts to re-enter the country after a trip abroad or applies for an immigration benefit.  The grounds of “deportability” (or removal) apply after a lawful permanent resident has been admitted to the U.S.

What kind of criminal conduct could lead to deportation of a lawful permanent resident?

Any criminal conduct, even if it did not lead to a conviction, could have consequences for the immigration status of a lawful permanent resident – from a denial of a particular immigration benefit, discretionary waiver or relief to deportation.

What criminal offenses are grounds for deportation?

Among some of the most common criminal grounds of deportability are offenses involving an aggravated felony, crimes involving moral turpitude committed within 5 years of admission with minimum possible sentence of 1 year or more, two or more crimes involving moral turpitude at any time after the LPR’s admission, most controlled substance offenses, most firearm offenses, crimes of domestic violence, stalking, or child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment. See Criminal Grounds of Deportability

What criminal offenses are grounds for mandatory immigration detainer?

In additional to rendering a lawful permanent resident removable, certain criminal convictions can also result in mandatory immigration detention and almost certain deportation because of unavailability of many forms of discretionary waivers and relief that would stop deportation, such cancellation of removal. See Criminal Grounds for Mandatory Detention. In contrast, merely deportable lawful permanent resident could qualify for a waiver or relief that would preserve their current lawful status or permit them to obtain new status. See Forms of Relief from Deportation

What kind of criminal conduct could lead to inadmissibility of an LPR?

Generally, lawful permanent residents returning to the U.S. after traveling abroad are not regarded as seeking an admission into the United States for purposes of the immigration laws unless they have committed a criminal or related offense identified in section 212(a)(2) (including “crimes of moral turpitude”, drug trafficking, or prostitution), for which they have not been granted a waiver under 8 U.S. Code §1182(h) (also known as a 212 (h) waiver) or a cancellation of removal under 8 U.S. Code §1229b(a). See Criminal Grounds of Inadmissibility. To be subject to one or more grounds of inadmissibility, a conviction of these offenses is not necessary. An admission to acts that would constitute a crime of moral turpitude is enough to make a person inadmissible. Most common admissions are guilty pleas or pleas of nolo contendere in a criminal case. 

Should a lawful permanent resident with recent criminal history travel abroad?

For example, some relatively minor crimes that could serve as grounds for removal (or deportability) may not come to the attention of immigration authorities until an LPR returns to the U.S. after traveling abroad, at which time the LPR could be denied entry. Therefore, green card holders with any criminal conduct should exercise caution in traveling outside the U.S., seeking new immigration benefits, or applying for citizenship as they could be denied admission upon their return or placed in removal (deportation) proceedings.

If a lawful permanent resident has committed, been arrested for, or been convicted of a crime in the United States, the LPR may face serious immigration consequences for such criminal activity. The LPR may be refused entry into the country upon return from a trip abroad, may be detained in an immigration detention facility without a bond, may be placed in deportation proceedings and ultimately deported, or removed from the country, and may be denied certain immigration benefits, such as naturalization.

How can an immigration attorney help?

At Anna Handy Law Firm, P.A. we can provide a lawful permanent resident with criminal history a competent advice about the best criminal disposition in the LPR’s case depending on that LPR’s prior criminal record, immigration status, the status of immediate relatives, and a number of other factors. Call us now for a consultation. (386) 248-3000.