What is An Aggravated Felony?

An aggravated felony is another category of serious offense that carries very extreme immigration consequences for your legal status. It’s defined by law through a list of a number of federal definitions of crimes, so if you’re dealing with the state offense you have to compare it to the federal offense to determine whether it would qualify. Aggravated felonies carry the most extreme immigration consequences of any type of criminal offense. Therefore if you are charged it is necessary that you consult with a DC immigration lawyer to discuss how your charge is going to impact your immigration status.

Examples of Aggravated Felonies

Some examples are alien smuggling, bribery of witnesses, burglary, child pornography, counterfeiting, and many more. There’s a category of aggravated felonies called crimes of violence, which can encompass a number of state-level offenses. Many drug, or “controlled substance” offenses are categorized as aggravated felonies as well. Also firearm offenses can be aggravated felonies, forgery, money laundering, murder, obstruction of justice, rape, tax evasion, certain types of theft convictions, and treason. So it’s quite a long list but one thing to remember is that with some of the offenses you must have a sentence of at least a year imposed in order for the crime to qualify as an aggravated felony. But, in others, the sentence doesn’t matter. Like crimes of moral turpitude, it’s a fairly involved determination.

Moral Turpitude vs Aggravated Felonies

Many of the crimes that are categorized as crimes of moral turpitude overlap with the definition of crimes that are considered aggravated felonies. So it’s certainly possible for an offense to be both an aggravated felony and a crime of moral turpitude. But, there are many offenses that can qualify as one but not the other.

These types of crimes are distinguished from others because they are offenses that our government has determined are going to be committed only by people that we believe are dangerous to the community and who the government does not want to allow to possess legal status in the United States.

Aggravated Felony Impact on Immigration Status

Aggravated felonies can have very severe consequences on your immigration status. They can make you permanently ineligible to receive any kind of legal status in the United States. They can also make you deportable and subject to mandatory detention. In most cases, you cannot ever be illegally readmitted if you have an aggravated felony on your record but, there are some very narrow exceptions to this. In most cases, it’s a death sentence for your immigration possibilities within the United States.

This can affect people’s immigration status in very profound ways. It can have extreme consequences on a person’s ability to remain in the United States. So, if you believe that you may be at risk of being convicted of an aggravated felony, you should absolutely consult an immigration attorney to determine whether or not the offense really should qualify as an aggravated felony (because sometimes ICE attorneys will argue that an offense is an aggravated felony when it in fact is not), and if so what defenses you may have available to you. Even more importantly, before the conviction occurs, you should consult as an immigration attorney to evaluate if there may be alternate pleas that could be less harmful to your immigration status.

Waiving the Consequences of Aggravated Felonies

In limited cases, it’s possible to waive the consequences of an aggravated felony. Sometimes individuals may still be eligible for something called withholding of removal if they have a very strong asylum claim or under relief under the convention against torture. Another option for some people is by applying for a T or a U visa. These visas are for victims of crimes or people that have been victims of human trafficking into the United States. There are very broad waivers for these types of visas and sometimes it is possible to waive aggravated felonies if you are able to obtain a T or U visa.

Another possibility in limited situations is a waiver under 212h and an individual may be able to apply for a waiver under this provision if they have a US citizen or permanent resident immediate family member and were also not permanent residents at the time of conviction.