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Immigration & Criminal Records: Removal for moral character crimes

Good Moral Character

In order to become a US legal permanent resident or to become a naturalized US citizen, you will need to show you are and will be a trusted individual who has a good moral character.   A non-citizen's criminal record can result in statutory ineligibility to establish good moral character.  One cannot establish good moral character if they have been inadmissible due to crimes relating to moral turpitude, controlled substances, prostitution, a 5-year sentence for two or more convictions, domestic violence, or smuggling of aliens.  

Crimes of Moral Turpitude

A crime involving moral turpitude (“CIMT”) has sometimes been defined as a depraved or immoral act, or a violation of the basic duties owed to fellow man, or recently as a “reprehensible act” with a mens rea of at least recklessness.  Traditionally a CIMT involves intent to commit fraud, commit theft with intent to permanently deprive the owner, or inflict great bodily harm, as well as some reckless or malicious offenses and some offenses with lewd intent.  


However, for immigration purposes, the following crimes have been deemed to be CIMT:  

  • murder
  • voluntary manslaughter
  • involuntary manslaughter, in some cases
  • rape
  • spousal abuse
  • child abuse
  • incest
  • kidnaping
  • robbery
  • aggravated assault
  • mayhem
  • animal fighting
  • theft
  • fraud, and
  • conspiracy, attempt, or acting as an accessory to a crime if that crime involved moral turpitude.

Sex Crimes

Sex crimes include but are not limited to:

  • Child molestation
  • Rape
  • Sex trafficking 
  • Spousal rape
  • Prostitution 

Domestic Violence

The term “domestic violence” includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner, by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies, or by any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction.

Other Deportable Offenses or Causes

While this list is not exhaustive (complete), it provides a good idea of what else could cause major immigration problems: 

  • Sale or Possession of Controlled Substances
  • Firearms Offenses 
  • Drug addiction or alcoholism 
  • Sentences of over one years
  • Gambling 
  • Aggravated Felonies