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Can a Felon Get a Green Card?

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Can a Felon get a green card? Felons face many restrictions on their rights following a conviction. They lose the right to vote, hold public office, and serve on a jury.

As natural citizens of the United States, citizenship is not lost as a result of a felony conviction. But, what about those felons who want to become U. S. citizens? Can they get a green card with a felony?

This blog post will cover whether or not a felon can get a green card.

  • What is a Green Card?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Good Moral Character?
  • Recommended Action


What is a Green Card?

Those persons entering the U.S. who are planning to stay in the country for more than 90 days are typically required to have a visa. As a foreign-born person, there are regulations they must meet to be able to remain and reside in this country.

U.S. law states that only a set number of people can be granted residence in the U.S. each year.

Those that wish to reside here must apply for a green card. Having a green card, which derived its name from the color of the card, will allow a person to permanently live in this country legally.  However, the government strictly limits the number of immigrants who are allowed to live here to include certain categories.

The first category is an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. This includes:

  • A spouse of a U.S. citizen
  • An unmarried child under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen
  • A parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old

The second category is an immigrant worker, including a person who:

  • Has extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics
  • Is a member of a profession that requires an advanced degree
  • Is a skilled worker (meaning their job requires a minimum of two years of training or work experience)
  • Is a professional (a job that requires at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree)
  • Is an unskilled worker (unskilled labor requiring less than two years training or experience)

The green card application process differs based on the method in which someone seeks to obtain a green card.

An Opportunity for Felons?

There are many circumstances that will result in a felon being denied a green card. A recent felony conviction is one of the most common reasons for denial. It may even be grounds for deportation.

If someone was recently convicted of a felony, he or she would be more likely to have a green card denied than if it occurred a long time ago. If someone is convicted of an aggravated felony, he or she will be permanently barred from receiving a green card. But, if a felon received a minor felony up to 10 or more years in the past, he or she may be able to get a green card.

Certain crimes will permanently affect a felon’s chances of getting a green card. These crimes include:

  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Aggravated felony
  • Drug, firearm, or sex trafficking
  • Fraud or money laundering exceeding $10,000
  • Kidnapping
  • Theft or burglary with at least one year imprisonment
  • Terrorism
  • Treason
  • Passport forgery
  • Conspiracy to commit an aggravated felony

If someone has been charged with a felony and the charges are dropped, he or she will still be able to receive a green card. An immigration lawyer should be contacted for any questions.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the criteria for being awarded a green card includes demonstrating good moral character for at least three years prior to the application.

Good Moral Character?

The requirement of good moral character during the statutory period indicates that an applicant for a green card has demonstrated that, during the statutory five-year period, he or she has been and continues to be a person of good moral character.

The Service shall evaluate claims of good moral character on a case-by-case basis. It’s not limited to reviewing the applicant’s conduct during the five years immediately preceding the filing of the application, but may take into consideration the applicant’s conduct and acts at any time prior to that period.

An applicant shall be found to lack good moral character, if the applicant has been:

  • Convicted of murder at any time
  • Convicted of an aggravated felony

The candidate will be found to lack good moral character if during the statutory period the applicant is:

  • Convicted of one or more crimes involving moral turpitude
  • Convicted of two or more offenses for which the sentence was five years or more
  • Violated any law of the United States relating to a controlled substance
  • Committed two or more gambling offenses for which the applicant was convicted

The following relates to good moral character and record expungement:

  • Drug offenses – Where an applicant has had his or her record expunged relating to a narcotics offense, he or she may be considered for a green card if the offense occurred before the candidate was 18 or if it has been at least five years since the conviction.
  • Moral turpitude – An applicant who has committed or admits the commission of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude during the statutory period is precluded from establishing good moral character, even though the conviction record of one such offense has been expunged.

It is important to be honest while filling out an application when applying for a green card. If a felony isn’t disclosed but is found on a background check, this constitutes fraud and is punishable. It is a crime to falsify an application, which could result in being sent back to prison.

In order to be successful in getting a green card, it is essential for felons to be honest about their background. They are already seen with negative perceptions of being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.

Having their record expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in getting a green card. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It is a big challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon wanting to get a green card. Having his or her record expunged and also documenting any training programs or additional education could make the essential difference for a felon in demonstrating good moral character.

Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We are not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to get a green card with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

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