Applying For A Marriage-Based Green Card But Have A Criminal Past? Here's What You Need To Know

If you are a foreigner who is in a relationship with a United States citizen who has proposed, you may be wondering if your criminal past will affect your ability to obtain a green card, especially if you've kept your past a secret from your future spouse. Unfortunately, your future spouse will likely find out about your criminal past, so it's a good idea to come clean and tell them before you apply for a green card. Here's why.

You Are Required to Include Criminal History with the Application

When you apply for your green card, you will be required to send along all of your criminal records, so it's important to disclose them. You may not need the actual documentation, which may be difficult to obtain if you are already in the US, but you will need the dates, places, and the crimes you were charged with and/or convicted for.

Before sending in your application and criminal history, it's important to seek the counsel of a US immigration lawyer. There are certain crimes that will cause your green card application to be denied, such as murder and torture. There are other crimes that may require a waiver, such as prostitution and drug possession. Disclose your criminal past to your immigration lawyer so he or she can determine whether or not your particular criminal history will be problematic and, if so, if there's a chance of getting a waiver.

Your Fingerprints Will Be Taken During Your Biometrics Appointment

Part of the process you will go through includes a biometrics appointment. During this appointment, your fingerprints and a photo will be taken, and you will need to provide your signature. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will use this information to facilitate an international criminal background check. Therefore, do not attempt to hide any of your criminal charges and convictions in your green card application. If you do and the USCIS discovers criminal records, your application will be denied.

If you are already in the United States, this appointment will be scheduled at the nearest USCIS office. If your fingerprints lead to findings of a criminal past that you did not disclose previously, removal proceedings will begin. If so, speak with your immigration lawyer immediately. If you are outside of the United States, this appointment will take place in your current location's US consulate or embassy. You will need to schedule this appointment yourself, which can be done with the assistance of an immigration lawyer.

Your Lawyer Is Required to Follow the Code of Ethics

Most couples who apply for green cards for marriage hire the same lawyer to represent both individuals. If this will be the case for your relationship, your lawyer will have a code of ethics to follow, which means he or she will not be able to keep secrets about your past from your future spouse. Also, more importantly, doing so could cause the lawyer to be subjected to a malpractice lawsuit by your future spouse at some point should your spouse find out later and want to dissolve the marriage.

However, using the same lawyer to represent both parties is not a requirement. If, for whatever reason, you don't want your future spouse to learn about your criminal past, you could hire a lawyer to represent you solely, but that would mean needing to find an explanation for doing so. It's important to understand that most lawyers see this as risky behavior that could cause them professional strife in the future. In the end, it's never a good idea to keep secrets from someone you will legally profess a life-long commitment to. Lying and keeping secrets from your future spouse could result in marriage fraud, which would lead to a divorce and deportation.