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Under the U.S. immigration law, any alien convicted of a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT), or who admits to have committed a CIMT, or the elements of a CIMT, is inadmissible to the USA. Moreover, many immigration crimes are included in the CIMT (or crimes involving moral indecency) category.
In the common law, “Moral Turpitude” refers to an act which is morally reprehensible, inherently base, vile, or depraved, and contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties owed between persons or to society in general.
CIMTs are the oldest reasons of “removal” from the United States and were introduced in the U.S. immigration law for the first time in 1891, condemning to expulsion all those guilty people “who have been convicted of a felony or other infamous crime or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude”.
The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) ruled that a CIMT involves a behavior that is itself vile or involves fraud or deception, but various Federal Courts have different forms of interpreting these conditions. Persons are potentially ineligible for a visa under Section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) if they are convicted of a statutory offense which involves moral turpitude.
The crimes involving moral indecency are grouped into three main categories:
– Crimes against property (blackmail, arson, robbery, burglary, receipt of stolen property, counterfeit godos, larceny, theft, or securities fraud);
2. – Crimes committed against governmental authority (tax evasion, corruption, fraud against the Government);
3. – Crimes committed against individuals, family and sexual morality (statutory rape, murder, second or third degree assault, disorderly conduct, child abuse or pornography, spouse abuse, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, attempted murder, accessory after the fact to murder).
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the conviction of a crime which corresponds to this list, can make a person ineligible to enter the United States and to obtain a visa. To avoid ineligibility, you must file a criminal appeal. If the person is already present in the United States, the acquisition of a Green Card or the naturalization process can be denied. Most criminal convictions are based on state law. Crimes punished by only fines or even less have still been held to be CIMTs.
If the conviction was committed for a “Petty Offense”, the alien may still be admissible. In the case of a Petty Offense, the maximum possible penalty for the crime should not exceed imprisonment for one year and the alien was not sentenced to a term of imprisonment in excess of six months. The Petty Offense exception is not available if more than one CIMT offense was committed or admitted. The exception can often be relied, to exclude CIMT grounds. You may apply for a Petty Offense if:
– you are less than 18 years old;
– in some cases of purely political offenses (such as political rallies of opposition, in a politically repressed country);
– the sentence took place more than 5 years ago;
– the maximum penalty for the offense shall not exceed one year in prison and the offender was not sentenced to more than 180 days in prison.
Another way to atone for a CIMT, is to qualify for a pardon (Waiver), under the Section 212 (h) of the INA. This section allows exceptions when the sentence imposed was more than 15 years ago, the admission would not affect the security of the United States and the immigrant was later rehabilitated.
Finally, exemptions may be granted when the alien proves a condition of extreme hardship for the spouse, child and parent legally residents, if banned from entering in the United States.
The law on CIMTs is constantly changing, and only a lawyer familiar with local criminal laws as well as the Immigration Code, can provide a full analysis of your case.
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