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I am a born U.S. citizen, but I have three felonies. My wife is an immigrant, can I help her get a greencard?

Brooklyn, NY |
Attorney answers 5


Kind of a paradox, but they don't look at the criminal history of a U.S. citizen sponsor almost at all. As long as you are free to legally marry your wife (not guilty of bigamy) and can provide adequate financial sponsorship or supplement with someone else's joint affidavit of support, you can sponsor your wife for permanent residence even with the prior felonies.

Had she been the one who committed any sort of drug offense, though, she would almost certainly not be eligible to get a green card.


You are a US citizen. Your criminal convictions do not make you ineligible to apply for immigration benefits for your wife.

However, if you have convictions, and you have an outstanding warrant for violation of probation or parole, it could [not for certain] come up during the immigration procedures and lead to your arrest, though your wife wife would still be eligible for immigration benefits.

Lamar Peckham
Law Office of Lamar Peckham
555 Sebastopol Rd., Ste. C
Santa Rosa, CA 95407


My colleagues are correct. Some immigration district offices do pull the criminal records of the US citizen as well as the foreign national. If there are outstanding warrants, they will have police called while you are at the interview.
More directly related is that they can and do use your criminal record in consideration of your veracity in regard to whether the marriage is bona fide in cases where there is any doubt. I have seen the Baltimore district office for example refer to a spouse's criminal history as a factor in discrediting his testimony as to the marriage. This will thus only be a factor if the marriage based case is not well documented so be sure your case is rock solid and do not let your record stop you from applying for your wife.

This communication is intended as general information and not specific legal advice, and this communication does not create an attorney-client relationship. Consultation with an experienced competent immigration attorney is often the best way to address the complexities of individual immigration issues.


With controlled substances, an alien does not have to have a conviction to be inadmissible into the US or be removal from the US.

As provided by INA 212(a)(2)(C) CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE TRAFFICKERS- persons not admissible into the US include: Any alien who the consular officer or the Attorney General knows or has reason to believe--

(i) is or has been an illicit trafficker in any controlled substance or in any listed chemical (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802)), or is or has been a knowing aider, abettor, assister, conspirator, or colluder with others in the illicit trafficking in any such controlled or listed substance or chemical, or endeavored to do so;


The INA sections are interlinked. So, even if your wife is in the US, INA 212 can still be applied to her.

If your convictions involved drug trafficking and USCIS somehow believes your wife to have been involved, your wife's adjustment of status may have problem.

If your wife did not know you at the time you got convicted, your criminal history should not be a basis to deny your wife's petition to adjust status.

There are many other reasons why a person would not be able to get a green card. You and your wife may want to review your facts with your attorney to see what the legal options are.


I have to disagree with my colleagues. Unfortunately, depending upon what crimes you have been convicted of can be relevant and prevent a U.S. Citizen from petitioning on behalf of a relative.

On July 27, 2006, President Bush signed into law H.R. 4772, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (“Adam Walsh Act”), an Act to protect children from sexual exploitation and violent crime, to prevent child abuse and child pornography, to promote Internet safety, and to honor the memory of Adam Walsh and other child crime victims.
Section 402 of the Adam Walsh Act amends the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to prohibit U.S. citizens and lawful permanent resident aliens who have been convicted of any “specified offense against a minor” from filing a family-based immigrant petition (including the Form I-130 and the Petition to Classify Orphan, Form I-600A or I-600) on behalf of any beneficiary, unless the Secretary of Homeland Security determines in his sole and unreviewable discretion that the petitioner poses no risk to the beneficiary. Section 402 of the Adam Walsh Act also amends section 101(a)(15) of the INA to remove spouses or fiancés of U.S. citizens convicted of these offenses from eligibility for “K” nonimmigrant status (Form I-129F).

The term `"specified offense against a minor" means an offense against a minor that involves any of the following:
(A) An offense (unless committed by a parent or guardian) involving kidnapping.
(B) An offense (unless committed by a parent or guardian) involving false imprisonment.
(C) Solicitation to engage in sexual conduct
(D) Use in a sexual performance.
(E) Solicitation to practice prostitution.
(F) Video voyeurism as described in section 1801 of title 18, United States Code.
(G) Possession, production, or distribution of child pornography.
(H) Criminal sexual conduct involving a minor, or the use of the Internet to facilitate or attempt such conduct.
(I) Any conduct that by its nature is a sex offense against a minor.”

Thus, conviction of a crime that meets this one of these definitions can prohibit a U.S. citizen from successfully petitioning for a relative. However, since your crimes were drug crimes they are not included and will have no effect your ability to petition for your wife.