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What is an "Aggravated Felony" and How Can it Impact My Immigration Case?

All criminal activity can have a major impact on your immigration case, but none more so than aggravated felonies.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) states that anyone convicted of an aggravated felony after November 29, 1990 is permanently barred from demonstrating good moral character (which we explained in our previous blog) for the purpose of naturalization. This means, if you committed an aggravated felony in the past 25 years, or if you commit one at any time in the future, you will never be allowed to become a US citizen. Anyone who committed an aggravated felony prior to November 29, 1990 will be considered by USCIS officers on a case-by-case basis depending on the severity and nature of the crime. An aggravated felony may have major implications for other types of immigration cases as well, such as an application for asylum, legal permanent resident status, or a cancellation of removal. Even if you already have a green card, an aggravated felony could result in your deportation from the country. Anyone removed from the US due to their conviction of an aggravated felony cannot reenter the country for any reason for a period of 20 years without being pardoned or paroled by the government. Aggravated felonies are a broad category of crimes. When they were first established by the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1988 they only included murder and drug or weapons trafficking. The types of crimes that qualify as an aggravated felony have subsequently been greatly expanded. The extensive list of other crimes besides murder and drug trafficking which qualify includes, but is not limited to:
  • rape

  • sexual abuse of a minor

  • money laundering in excess of $10,000

  • arson or explosives related crimes

  • numerous weapons charges (but not all)

  • numerous offense that result in a prison sentence of at least one year

  • attempt or conspiracy to commit any aggravated felony

In cases where the crime is considered an aggravated felony because the sentence was one year or more, the person in question does not have to actually serve a full year in prison for the crime to still qualify as an aggravated felony. Even if the entire sentence is suspended, if you are convicted of a crime that carries a sentence of one year or more then you have committed an aggravated felony with regard to your immigration status. Normal penalties for illegal reentry after a deportation result in a maximum prison sentence of two years, but if you were deported due an aggravated felony on your record and you illegally reenter the United States then you could face a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison. Clearly, the implications of an aggravated felony on immigration status are incredibly dire, and these crimes are to be avoided at all costs. To learn more about how an aggravated felony can impact your immigration case, please contact Landerholm Immigration.

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