I Committed a Crime But Am Married to a U.S. Citizen. Can I Get a Visa?
Jan. 3, 2023
You married a U.S. citizen while living abroad and now want to join your spouse in the United States, but you fear that something you did can place a barrier in your path. While abroad, you committed a crime and now have a record that will have to be dealt with not only on your visa application, but also in person in any subsequent interview. What to do?
The Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) does indeed specify acts or events that can prevent either the sponsoring U.S. citizen or the overseas spouse from completing the process of being reunited here in the United States. In some cases, however, waivers are available to vacate the barrier and allow things to move forward.
If you’re a foreign national hoping to obtain a U.S. visa so you can immigrate and rejoin your spouse, but your criminal record is blocking the petition process, contact me at the M Matthew Law Firm, PLLC in Dallas, Texas.
My practice is dedicated to helping those facing immigration issues. I will meet with you, assess the situation, and advise you of your best path forward to be reunited here in the U.S. The immigration system can be complex and nerve-wracking. I’m here to relieve the pressure and assist you in navigating the hoops and hurdles the law can place in your way.
I proudly help clients in Dallas, as well as those in Richardson, Lewisville, Irving, Farmers Branch, Grand Prairie, Garland, and Mesquite, Texas.
Visa Requirements for the U.S. Spouse
If you’re a citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR, or Green Card resident) and you wish to bring a spouse living overseas to join you, the process begins by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Generally speaking, USCIS will then review the petition to verify if the marriage is legitimate and not fraudulent, which is the agency’s primary concern.
For the most part, the U.S.-based applicant’s character, history, or characteristics are put on the back burner, so to speak, with one major exception. Under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, U.S. citizens and LPRs who have been convicted of specified offenses against minors cannot petition for family members or spouses abroad. These offenses include:
Kidnapping (unless committed by a parent or guardian)
False imprisonment of a minor
Solicitation of a minor to engage in sexual activity
Using a minor in a sexual performance
Video voyeurism of a minor
Possession, production, or distribution of child pornography
Any other sex offense against a minor
These same restrictions also apply to those filing K-1 fiancé(e) petitions.
Exceptions to the Adam Walsh Act
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), however, can grant an exception to the Adam Walsh Act if the U.S.-based petitioner can prove he or she poses no risk to the overseas beneficiary. The petitioner must provide proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” of being rehabilitated. This is a high bar and will require extensive documentary evidence. You will no doubt need the guidance and services of an experienced immigration attorney to complete the process.
Visa Requirements for the Overseas Spouse
Certain crimes can make foreign nationals, even those married to a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder, inadmissible to the United States, whether for a temporary stay or for permanent residence. These crimes are spelled out in Section 212 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), and include but are not limited to:
Crimes of moral turpitude (with some exceptions for length of sentence and length of time served)
Violations of any controlled substance (drug) law, or conspiracy or attempt thereof
Benefitting from drug trafficking
Multiple criminal convictions other than political ones with aggregate prison terms of five years or more
Human trafficking or benefiting from human trafficking
Laundering of money
Prostitution and commercialized vice
If you have committed one of the above crimes, you are not out of options. Contact me at M Matthew Law Firm, PLLC to learn how you may be able to obtain a waiver.
Obtaining a Waiver
Waivers are indeed available for some crimes. Prostitution, drug violations involving a single offense, and simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana are among the potential crimes that can be waived. For any crime to be waived, two criteria must be met:
Either the infraction was related to prostitution, or it took place at least 15 years before the date of the visa application, and
Admitting the person to the U.S. would not threaten the welfare, safety, or security of the United States and its citizens.
Again, obtaining a waiver can be complex and involved, and your safest route to navigating the system lies with obtaining the guidance and services of an experienced immigration attorney.
How I Can Help
I myself am a naturalized citizen who attended law school here in Dallas. I know what immigrants go through and endure in their struggles to achieve permanent residency and citizenship. Let me help you get your overseas spouse reunited with you here in the U.S.
If you’re concerned about your criminal record and how it will affect your ability to obtain a U.S. visa, reach out to me, Attorney Kavi Matthew, to start discussing your options. I can also advise and guide your overseas spouse if he or she faces any hurdles on that side of the process. I treat all clients with compassion and care for their futures.