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No Longer Trapped! U.S. Supreme Court Makes it “Law of the Land”: Permanent Residents with Criminal Convictions Prior to 1997 Can Now Travel.

Some of our non-U.S. citizen clients are individuals who committed a crime either when they were young; or over a decade ago which they deeply regret.  Their encounter with the law resulted in a criminal conviction. More often than not, it is a “one time crime”, and out of sheer panic and fear they accepted any plea offered by their criminal attorney that would result in the minimum or no jail time.

However, little did the non-citizen know that by pleading guilty to a crime, they would now be faced with the immigration consequence of being “trapped in the U.S.”.  In other words, if they travelled overseas as a non-U.S. citizen they would be faced with being detained and deported by Customs Border and Patrol (“CBP”) upon their return from even a brief trip overseas.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Padilla v. Kentucky, a case not discussed here, is one of the most significant cases decided in 2009 that started providing relief to clients who face these harsh consequences for past criminal actions.  Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court went a step further to assist clients who plead to criminal charges prior to 1997.

The brief background is that Congress passed a law in 1996 which has been retroactively applied, up until now, in an adverse way to prevent all Legal Permanent Resident “LPRs” with certain criminal convictions from leaving the country.  Specifically, non-citizens with certain convictions who travelled overseas upon return risked detention and deportation (Removal) upon attempting to reenter the United States.

The great news is that on March 28th, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Vartelas v. Holder, that a LPR who temporarily leaves the country cannot be denied readmission on account of criminal convictions that occurred before the law took effect in 1996.

If you or someone you know has a prior criminal conviction and is a non-citizen, it is important to get the counsel of a U.S. Immigration lawyer on how this new U.S. Supreme Court case, and other court decisions such as Padilla can provide relief from the harsh immigration consequences such as Removal, Deportation or Exclusion from the United States.

Please note: Even applying for U.S. Citizenship will not solve the problem of a prior criminal conviction, as this can also result in a non-citizen being placed in removal proceedings. All non-citizens with any criminal charge or conviction are strongly encouraged to seek counsel before travelling out of the United States.

If you have any further questions or concerns, you may contact our law firm at info@scottcclaw.com or visit our website at www.scottcclaw.com where all our telephone numbers are conveniently listed.


ScottMond Law Firm


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