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Immigration, Moral Turpitude, Petty Theft

San Jose, CA |

The question of whether, for green card application purposes, petty theft is crime involving moral turpitude seem to have no clear answer. Some attorneys say yes, some say no.

So, when applying for a green card with a petty theft, the personal biases of the adjudicating officials would determine the outcome?

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Attorney answers 3


Stealing is absolutely a crime involving moral turpitude. The question is whether it falls within the petty offense exception. If it is just one crime and the maximum punishment available by law is one year in jail and you received a sentence of less than six months in jail then even though it is a crime involving moral turpitude, it will not be an offense that is the basis of your deportation. However, if you have two crimes then it will be used as a basis to bring removal charges against you. Finally the personal biases of the officer do not matter when it is a statutory issue.

The answer provided here is general in nature and does not take into account other factors that may need to be reviewed for a more precise answer. You should consult with an immigration attorney before taking any action. The answer here is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship.


A conviction for a theft crime is a crime involving moral turpitude and would render an alien inadmissible to the United States. Whether a particular conviction falls under the "petty offense exception" will depend upon the statute the alien was convicted of and the alien's criminal history. Just because a conviction is entitled "petty theft" does not mean it is not an inadmissible offense.

You should consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can review the specifics of your criminal history and advise you whether the petty offense exception will apply in your situation and how best to proceed.

While this answer is provided by a Florida Bar Certified Expert in Immigration and Nationality Law, it is for general information purposes only and an attorney/client relationship is neither intended nor created. You should seek out qualified counsel to review your case and provide you with advice specific to your situation. Call +1-561-478-5353 to schedule a consultation with Mr. Devore.


All theft convictions are crimes of moral turpitude. However, one petty offense does not make one deportable.

Please click the link at the very bottom for additional information.

Carl Shusterman, Esq.
Former INS Trial Attorney (1976-82)
Board Certified Immigration Attorney (1986 - Present)
Schedule a Legal Consultation - Telephonic, Skype or In-Person
600 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1550
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 394-4554 x0
Web: (English) (Spanish)

(213) 394-4554 x0 Mr. Shusterman is a former INS Trial Attorney (1976-82) with over 35 years of immigration experience. His response to your question is general in nature, as not all the facts are known to him. You should retain an attorney experienced in immigration law to review all the facts in your case in order to receive advice specific to your case. Mr. Shusterman's statement above does not create an attorney/client relationship.

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