Can My Green Card Be Revoked if I Commit a Crime?

Can My Green Card Be Revoked if I Commit a Crime?

For green card holders in the United States, committing certain crimes can lead to severe consequences like deportation or having your green card revoked. While having your permanent resident status revoked is rare, it’s important to understand what kind of criminal activity can put your green card at risk.

What is a Green Card?

A green card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, allows foreign nationals to live and work permanently in the United States. Green card holders have privileges like being able to:

  • Live and work permanently in the U.S.
  • Apply for U.S. citizenship after meeting certain requirements
  • Receive government assistance if eligible
  • Travel abroad and return to the U.S. with few restrictions

Green card holders must renew their physical green card every 10 years. As long as they follow U.S. laws, they can essentially live their entire life in the U.S. [13]

When Can a Green Card Be Revoked?

There are a few situations where U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can revoke a green card, including if the holder:

  • Commits certain crimes – Crimes like murder, rape, money laundering, and drug trafficking are grounds for revoking a green card. So are crimes involving “moral turpitude,” which refers to acts that are morally reprehensible or intrinsically wrong.
  • Abandons permanent resident status – Remaining outside the U.S. for more than 6 months can be seen as abandoning your green card. Failing to file special forms with USCIS before extended travel can also lead to revocation.
  • Commits immigration fraud – Lying on any immigration forms or applications can cause USCIS to take away green card privileges. This includes marriage fraud to get a green card.

In most cases, a notice is sent out before USCIS revokes a green card. The holder then has 30 days to rebut the grounds for revocation. [1]

How Crimes Affect Green Card Status

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states that green card holders can have their status revoked if convicted of certain crimes after receiving their green card. These include:

  • Aggravated felonies – Murder, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, illicit trafficking of firearms or destructive devices are some examples.
  • Crimes involving moral turpitude – Fraud and theft crimes fall under this category. So do acts done with malicious intent like homicide or aggravated assault.
  • Controlled substance violations – Drug-related offenses like trafficking can cause loss of green card privileges.

In some cases, only one conviction is needed to revoke a green card. But in other cases, it takes multiple convictions over many years to prompt removal procedures. [11]

Can Any Crime Revoke My Green Card?

No, not every crime can lead to green card revocation. Minor offenses like traffic violations generally don’t put your status at risk. However, any criminal conviction can potentially lead to removal proceedings. So while a misdemeanor shoplifting charge may not directly cause revocation, it can still carry risks.

In cases of minor drug possession charges, waivers may be available to prevent immigration consequences. But violent crimes and felonies offer fewer options to fight revocation. Meeting with an immigration attorney to understand the risks is highly recommended if you’re facing criminal charges. [16]

Can I Appeal If My Green Card Is Revoked?

Yes, green card holders can appeal if USCIS issues a notice of intent to revoke their lawful permanent resident status. An immigration judge will then review the case and make a decision on whether the green card holder can remain in the country.

It’s crucial to work with an experienced immigration attorney when filing an appeal after receiving a notice of intent to revoke. They can help argue your case and navigate the complex immigration system. [1]

Protecting Your Green Card If You Have a Criminal Record

Here are some tips for keeping your green card secure if you have a criminal history:

  • Always be truthful – Lying or hiding information from immigration officials can prompt fraud charges. Be upfront about your full criminal history.
  • Follow court orders – If convicted of a crime, carefully follow all probation, community service, and other court orders. Failing to do so can lead to more charges.
  • Renew on time – Make sure to renew your actual green card promptly every 10 years.
  • Don’t travel excessively – Spending over 6 months abroad can cause USCIS to think you’ve abandoned your green card.
  • Consult an attorney – Speaking with an immigration lawyer can help you understand if certain charges put your green card at risk.

While a past criminal record presents challenges, options exist in many cases to preserve your permanent resident status if you’ve built a life in the U.S. But specific legal advice is essential to take the right steps. [14]

Applying for a Green Card with a Criminal Record

Foreign nationals with crimes in their past can still qualify for green cards through certain application processes. These include:

  • Family-based petitions – Immediate relatives like spouses, parents, and children may still petition despite minor offenses.
  • Employment-based green cards – Skilled workers can still gain permanent residency unless convicted of serious crimes.
  • Refugee or asylee adjustments – Those fleeing persecution can adjust status unless convicted of “particularly serious crimes” like aggravated felonies.

While certain criminal bars to admissibility exist for green card applicants, waivers are sometimes available depending on factors like family ties, length of U.S. residence, and rehabilitation efforts. Each criminal record presents unique challenges for green card eligibility. [10]

So consulting early with an immigration attorney is key when applying for a green card with a criminal background. They can assess eligibility for waivers and other forms of relief to still obtain permanent resident status.


Losing the permanent resident privileges offered by green card status is an extremely serious matter with potentially life-changing consequences. Any non-citizens considering committing unlawful acts should think carefully about how criminal charges might impact their immigration standing in the United States.

While green card revocation based on crimes is rarer compared to visa overstays or abandoning permanent resident status, it certainly happens in cases of aggravated felonies, drug trafficking, and moral turpitude offenses. By avoiding activities like immigration fraud or illicit drug sales, green card holders can effectively eliminate or minimize the risk of losing their cherished status.

But if you already have a criminal record and now hold a green card, promptly consulting an immigration attorney is highly advisable. They can help you understand if your specific charges trigger grounds for removal or steps you can take to preserve your permanent resident status.

With sound legal guidance and by adhering closely to all court orders and parole conditions, many green card holders with past convictions can continue living indefinitely in the United States without losing their hard-earned status.