Law Offices of M. Gabriela Guraiib

Immigration Consequences of Criminal Charges in California: Protecting Your Status


In the United States, criminal and immigration law do not always play nicely together. When non-citizens residing in the United States face criminal charges, there’s more than just their good name at stake. They could experience serious consequences, up to and including permanent deportation. This is particularly common in California, a state known for its diverse immigrant population. 

If you’re not a U.S. citizen, understanding how criminal charges can impact your immigration status is crucial for protecting your future in the country. Below, we will discuss the potential repercussions of criminal charges on immigrants and explain how an experienced defense attorney can defend you against unjust penalties. 

The Intersection of Criminal and Immigration Law

Criminal charges can have significant visa consequences for immigrants to the United States, affecting both their ability to enter the country and their status once inside. The impact of a charge largely depends on the nature of the offense, the specific visa held or applied for, and the individual’s current immigration status. Here’s an overview of how criminal charges can affect various aspects of an immigrant’s visa situation:

Denial of Entry, Denial of Visa Issuance, and Deportation

Certain criminal activities can render a non-citizen inadmissible to the U.S., meaning they can be denied a visa or entry into the country. This includes crimes involving moral turpitude (in other words, crimes that are particularly violent, harmful, or “depraved”), drug offenses, and multiple criminal convictions with aggregate sentences of five years or more.

During the visa application process, applicants are required to disclose any criminal history. A past conviction can lead to the denial of the visa application based on grounds of inadmissibility.

Furthermore, convictions for these types of crimes may result in automatic deportation without the possibility of relief. Deportation, or removal, is perhaps the most severe consequence an immigrant can face following criminal charges. In other words, if you’re convicted of a crime that would make you “inadmissible” to the U.S., you could be deported immediately and without legal recourse. 

Impact on Non-immigrant Visas

Holders of non-immigrant visas, such as student (F-1), tourist (B-2), or work visas (H-1B, L-1), can face revocation of their visa or denial of renewal if they are convicted of certain crimes:

  • Revocation or Non-renewal: A non-immigrant visa can be revoked for a criminal conviction, particularly for offenses related to drug abuse or trafficking, DUI (if involving aggravating factors), or crimes of moral turpitude. This can result in the requirement to leave the U.S.
  • Adjustment of Status: Non-immigrants wishing to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident may find their application denied if they have been convicted of certain crimes.

Impact on Green Card Holders and Visa Applicants

For lawful permanent residents (LPRs) or green card holders, certain criminal convictions can lead to the revocation of their status and eventual deportation. 

  • Deportation/Removal: LPRs are not immune to deportation and removal. If you are convicted of certain crimes within a specific period after admission to the U.S., you could be deported despite having your green card. 
  • Bar to Naturalization: Certain convictions can bar an LPR from becoming a U.S. citizen, affecting their eligibility for naturalization.

Additionally, non-citizens seeking entry into the U.S. or those applying for a green card may find themselves deemed inadmissible if they have been convicted of specific offenses. This can also apply to non-citizens within the U.S. seeking to adjust their status.

Consequences for DACA Recipients and Other Non-immigrants

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and other non-immigrant visa holders are not exempt from the immigration consequences of criminal charges. A conviction for a disqualifying offense can lead to the termination of DACA status or non-renewal of a visa, impacting one’s ability to work, study, or remain in the U.S.

The Importance of Legal Representation

An experienced defense lawyer plays a crucial role in protecting the rights and future of an immigrant charged with a crime, especially when there is a risk of deportation upon conviction. Their expertise in navigating the intricate overlap between criminal and immigration law can make a significant difference in the outcome. Here’s how such a lawyer can assist:

  • Challenge the Criminal Charges: An attorney can help contest the charges by creating a defense strategy tailored to protecting your immigration status. The defense strategy might include negotiating plea deals that reduce the charges to lesser offenses that do not carry the same immigration consequences, such as avoiding convictions for aggravated felonies, crimes of moral turpitude, or controlled substance violations.
  • Seek Plea Agreements: A knowledgeable lawyer will understand the importance of avoiding certain plea agreements that might be beneficial in a criminal context but disastrous for immigration status. They will negotiate terms that seek to minimize immigration harm.
  • Advocate for Relief: For those facing deportation, an attorney can argue for relief measures. For example, they may file motions to vacate or modify a conviction or sentence on grounds that it was unconstitutional or improperly obtained, which, if successful, could eliminate the immigration consequences of that conviction.

Don’t Risk Your Visa – Talk to M. Gabriela Guraiib

The intersection of criminal and immigration law in California presents significant challenges for immigrants. A criminal charge, no matter how minor it may seem, can derail an immigrant’s life in the U.S., leading to deportation, loss of lawful status, or denial of future immigration benefits if it leads to conviction. This fact underscores the critical importance of getting experienced legal help to defend yourself against criminal charges.Protecting your immigration status through skilled legal defense is not just a matter of legal strategy; it’s a vital part of safeguarding the American Dream for you and your family. At the Law Offices of M. Gabriela Guraiib, we are prepared to help you defend your innocence and your right to remain in the U.S. Get in touch to consult our Redwood City criminal defense lawyers and learn more about how we can help you avoid convictions that could impact your stay in the U.S.