Immigration Laws Criminal Background Checks
There is no such thing as a criminal charge that is not serious. An applicant’s criminal history, even of incidents that happened many years ago is very relevant in immigration proceedings such as naturalization and adjustment of status. Oftentimes applicants ignore convictions or arrests because they happened long ago and they have served their sentences or paid their fines. Others ignore them because they did not consider the matter to be serious. This is a common mistake in immigration proceedings.
If you have ever been arrested, cited or detained by law enforcement, it is important that you do not give false or misleading information about your criminal history when making application for a visa or immigration benefit. This is so even if your records are sealed or a criminal defense attorney told you that he would “erase” your record for a fee.
Criminal convictions, arrests or even certain admissions under oath may be grounds of inadmissibility under criminal grounds of Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Lying about your criminal history may be grounds of inadmissibility for misrepresentation or fraud.
If you have a criminal history it is important to preserve documentation of the events. In particular you should have certified copies of the following from the relevant agencies or courts:
- The Actual Arresting Officer’s report from the Arresting Agency,
- The charging documents from the Prosecutor’s Office,
- Court minutes or Transcripts of Hearings,
- The final court disposition of the case, and
- Proof of the completion of sentence, if any.
To obtain your police records contact the police department with jurisdiction over the city or county where you were arrested and ask for the police records department. Let them know that you would like to get your police record or arrest report for each incident.
To obtain court records contact the clerk of the court of the criminal division of the court where the matter was heard. Let the official know that you would like a copy of the court files. It is important that you let him or her know that you are interested in a certified copy of the court records for the case. When getting records for a case it is better to get as much as is available.
To obtain DA records contact the DA office that prosecuted the case. Let the official know that you would like a certified copy of the charging document.
If the record is not available from the police or court or district attorney’s office, you should obtain a certified letter from the agency stating that the record is not available, has been destroyed or does not exist. You should also provide a sworn statement containing details of the event.
It would be very unfortunate to have a criminal conviction that has no immigration consequences yet get a denial and criminal charge for giving false material information on an immigration application. If you have concerns about the immigration consequences of your criminal history you should consult an immigration lawyer about your case before making an application.