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How can I lose my green card? -- Criminal convictions

When an individual secures permanent residence -- meaning they become a green card holder -- it's an understandably joyous occasion. That's because not only are they granted the right to live permanently in the U.S., but they are also extended the right to pursue any legal work of their choosing, and the protection of all federal, state and local laws.

As wonderful as all this is, the ability to retain permanent residence is also contingent upon the individual meeting certain requirements, including filing the necessary income tax returns, registering with the Selective Service (if a male between 18 to 25) and, most significantly, obeying "all laws of the United States the states, and localities."

Regarding this last point, the prevailing thought is that an individual only has to be concerned about losing their green card if they commit some manner of serious felony, such as robbery, drug trafficking or even murder.

While it's true that a conviction for these types of major offenses will ultimately result in an individual losing their permanent resident status and being deported, it's important to understand the results can be the same for minor (i.e., misdemeanor) offenses.

Indeed, while U.S. immigration laws don't set forth a definitive list of crimes that will result in revocation of a green card upon conviction, it's generally accepted that any offense considered morally questionable -- from minor drug possession and domestic violence to sex offenses or fraud -- will be sufficient.

Furthermore, revocation can even result when the green card holder commits a violation of U.S. immigration laws, such as the use of fraud to secure permanent residence status (falsifying applications, fake marriages, etc.).

For these reasons, it's imperative that anyone facing charges consider consulting with not just a criminal defense attorney, but also an immigration attorney who understands the unique considerations that accompany these matters.

We'll continue this conversation in a future post, examining how a person might inadvertently abandon their permanent resident status.     

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