Obtaining your green card, also known as a permanent resident card, is the first step towards becoming a United States citizen. The entire process of becoming a US citizen is complicated and takes time. The green card phase can take up to 33 months, depending on the kind of green card you are trying to acquire, either employment-based or family preference.
Your record will be scrutinized while obtaining your green card and will continue to be monitored after its acquisition. Something like an arrest may have an impact on your green card, whether you are waiting for your application to be processed or you have already obtained your green card.
Can I Lose My Green Card?
If you reside in the United States using a green card, you may live in fear of losing your green card. Unfortunately, you can lose your green card and be deported from the United States in several ways.
If you are arrested, you can lose your green card.
Is a Public Defender Enough?
In the United States of America, you have the right to an attorney, even if you can not afford one. If you have been arrested or you are facing criminal charges and have yet to be arrested, the court may supply you with what is known as a public defender or a court-appointed attorney tasked with helping you prove your innocence.
You may think this attorney is sufficient, and while they may be well versed when it comes to criminal defense, their green card, citizenship, and deportation knowledge may be lacking. Public defenders are also heavily burdened with workloads. Even though they may fight tooth and nail to defend you to the best of their ability, your case may not be their main priority.
You can mitigate some of this by contacting the office of Shelle-Ann Simon, PLLC, to schedule a no-obligation consultation to review your case. Having an experienced green card lawyer can help increase your odds of maintaining your green card and avoiding deportation. Even if you have a court-appointed public defender already, finding an immigration attorney to work with your public defender as early in your case as possible is vital.
What is an Immigration Hold?
If you are in custody after an arrest, immigration officials may place you in what is known as an “immigration hold.” This procedure notifies the jail not to release you after serving your sentence. Instead, you will be transferred into federal custody.
Can I Be Deported Without a Conviction?
Certain circumstances may lead to your deportation, even if you were acquitted of a crime. If you are a green card holder, and there is reason to believe you are addicted to or have abused drugs, you may be deported for “conduct-based” grounds of deportation.
As a green card holder, if you leave the United States and commit a crime while you are gone, you may be refused admission back into the United States.
What is the Difference Between an Arrest and a Conviction?
It is important to remember that there is a distinct difference between an arrest and a conviction. While being arrested is scary, it does not mean you are a criminal. An arrest is the initial detention of someone by the police. A person may be arrested simply for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Police are human; just like the rest of us, they are prone to making mistakes. Perhaps an officer arrested you because of wrong information or mistaken identity. Even though you have been arrested, your green card is safe if you are not convicted of a crime, or your case is dismissed.
Conversely, a conviction is when a court formally finds you guilty of a crime. Once you are convicted of a crime, your options become limited, and depending on the crime and your conviction, your green card and your citizenship may be at risk.
This is why you want an immigration attorney as early in the process as possible, after an arrest but well before a conviction. An immigration attorney can help you build a solid case that maintains your innocence, freedom, and green card.
Were You Actually Convicted of a Crime?
Now that you know the difference between an arrest and a conviction, once the proceedings are over, you must ask yourself, “Was I ever convicted of a crime?” Remember, just because you were arrested does not mean you were convicted of a crime.
You may have been through the criminal court system, but that does not make you a criminal. An excellent way to determine if you were actually convicted of a crime is to ask, “Was I found guilty of a crime?” and, “Was I given any kind of punishment?” If the answer to both questions is “no,” then you have not been convicted of a crime, and your green card should be safe.
Which Convictions Lead to Deportation?
Unfortunately, there is no standard for crimes that can lead to deportation. Crimes like drug possession and theft, often charged as misdemeanors, can result in deportation.
You should seek out an attorney as soon as possible, regardless of what you are arrested for. A quick phone call to the office of Shelle-Ann Simon, PLLC, at 281-606-0800 is all it takes to get a free case evaluation.