Can I Sponsor Someone for a Green Card if I Have a Criminal Record?
If you have a criminal record, it's important to know that this may impact your ability to sponsor someone for a green card. This guide will explain the consequences of having a criminal record as a sponsor, and what you can do to mitigate them.
Sponsoring Someone for a Green Card: The Basics
When someone wants to get a green card in the U.S. (that is, they want lawful permanent residency here), they usually need a sponsor.
A sponsor is typically a family member or employer who is willing to help with the green card application process.
The sponsor will need to fill out an I-130 form, which is also known as a Petition for Alien Relative. Once this form is approved, the sponsored person can apply for a green card.
Generally speaking, anyone who wants to sponsor someone for a green card needs to be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident themselves. They also may need to have a clean criminal record.
What if I Have a Criminal Record?
If you have a criminal record, that doesn't necessarily mean you won't be able to sponsor someone for a green card. But it's important to know that having a criminal record may make it more difficult to sponsor someone, and it could also delay the process.
Related: Can a person work in the U.S. while waiting for a green card?
Absolute Disqualification From Sponsoring an Immigrant: Crimes Against Minors
One of the main things that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will look at is whether or not you have been convicted of a crime against a minor. If you've been convicted of one of these types of offenses, you'll be disqualified from sponsoring someone for a green card:
- Any sex offense against a minor
- The production, possession or distribution of pornography involving children or minors
- Kidnapping a child
- Requesting to engage in sexual conduct with a minor
These crimes - and those like them - are outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.
What is the Adam Walsh Act?
The Adam Walsh Act is a federal law that was created to help protect children from sex offenders. The act requires that sex offenders be registered in a national database, and it also imposes stricter penalties for sex crimes against minors. The Adam Walsh Act is now part of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Are There Exceptions if Your Criminal Record Precludes You From Sponsoring Someone for a Green Card?
In very rare cases, a person with a criminal record involving a crime against a minor may be able to sponsor someone for a green card. In order to sponsor someone when you have a child-related conviction on your record, you must prove to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that you pose absolutely no risk to the person you're sponsoring.
Related: Why does USCIS deny some green card applications?
Can You Sponsor Someone for a Green Card if You've Been Convicted of a Crime That Doesn’t Involve a Minor?
If you haven't been convicted of a crime against a minor, you may still be able to sponsor someone for a green card. However, USCIS will look at your entire criminal history when deciding whether or not to approve your I-130 petition.
Other factors that USCIS may consider include:
- The severity of your crime(s)
- How long ago the crime was committed
- Whether or not you have been rehabilitated
Generally speaking, the more serious the crime, the less likely you are to be approved as a sponsor. If you have been convicted of a felony, for example, it may be more difficult to get USCIS to approve your I-130 petition than it would be if you were convicted of a misdemeanor (or not convicted of any crimes at all).
Can USCIS Ask for More Information on Your Criminal Record if You Want to Sponsor an Immigrant?
If USCIS has questions about your criminal history, they may ask you for more information. They may also require that you submit additional documentation, such as court records or police reports.
If you're not sure whether or not your criminal record will affect your ability to sponsor someone for a green card, it's a good idea to speak with an immigration attorney. An attorney can review your criminal history and help you determine whether or not you'll be able to sponsor someone.
It's also important to note that even if you are able to sponsor someone for a green card, the person you're sponsoring still needs to meet the right criteria for admissibility. That means USCIS will also look at the immigrant's criminal history when making their decision.
Criminal records can make it difficult to sponsor someone for a green card, but it's not impossible. If you have a criminal record and you're hoping to sponsor an immigrant, the best thing to do is to speak with an immigration attorney. An attorney can help you understand your options and give you the best chance of getting your I-130 approved.
Related: How the public charge policy affects immigration
What if I Haven't Been Convicted of a Crime, but I Have Arrests on My Record?
If you haven't been convicted of a crime but you do have arrests on your record, USCIS will review your record to determine whether you qualify to sponsor someone. Generally, because of the way the U.S. legal system works, arrests don't mean much on a criminal record; only convictions make a big impact. That's because anyone can be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get arrested; but the U.S. justice system is only supposed to convict people who are actually guilty. (Whether or not the system actually works that way is another matter - and it's one for criminal attorneys to discuss, not immigration attorneys!)
What Happens if You Can't Sponsor Someone for a Green Card?
If you can't sponsor someone for a green card, that doesn't mean the person will never be able to get a green card. The person you're sponsoring will have to find another way to get a green card; for example, he or she may be able to apply for a green card through employment or via another family member. If they're in the U.S. on a temporary visa, they may also be able to adjust their status to obtain a green card. (However, only some visas can be adjusted to lawful permanent residency. Most can't.)
Related: How to find an ICE detainee online
Which Immigrants Don't Need Sponsors to Get a Green Card?
Some immigrants don't need sponsors at all, such as those seeking asylum or refugee status in the United States. Also, immigrants who have certain types of employment-based visas don't need sponsors.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Help Sponsor Someone for a Green Card?
Many people find that working with an immigration attorney is the best way to get the best possible outcome - particularly if they're trying to sponsor someone but they have a criminal record. An attorney can help you figure out the best way to proceed and may be able to help you get your I-130 petition approved even if you have a criminal record.
Related: The most common immigration lawyer fees, explained
Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Sponsoring Someone for a Green Card When You Have a Criminal Record?
If you have a criminal record and want to sponsor someone for a green card, we may be able to help you. Call our office now to schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney who can answer your questions and help you get the best possible outcome in your case.