Jamaica Magazine

Immigration Question & Answer Article: Permanent Residence Interview and Criminal Conviction

In this month’s article I will address two issues that usually pose an important concern to prospective clients. The first issue will address the issue that couples often encounter when they appear for the permanent residence interview. The second topic will address the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction for domestic violence.


1.       A couple recently got married. The couple submitted their permanent resident petition based on the fact that the husband is a United States Citizen. They attended the interview and Immigration denied their case because of multiple discrepancies in their response to the officer’s questions.  The couple is now worried and wants to know if they can challenge the officer’s belief that they are not a real married couple.


            Acquiring permanent residence through a spouse or a family member is usually a lengthy but simple process if all aspects of the client’s case are thoroughly prepared. Some individuals usually have the mistaken belief that if Immigration accepts their permanent resident application then an approval will be guaranteed at the interview. As a result, these applicants always fail to prepare for their interview and consequently they receive a denial on their application and non-U.S citizen spouse is then placed in removal proceedings. Consequently, I always advise clients to either hire an attorney to assist them with the entire process or at least hire an attorney to represent them at their permanent residence interview to avoid a denial of their case for petty mistakes.

            In this case the couple’s best action is to hire an attorney and file a Motion to Reopen/Reconsider and/or an appeal.  The deadline to file an appeal or either motions is approximately 30 days from the date of the denial decision. If the denial letter was mailed to the couple then they now have 33 days to file their appeal/motion to reopen/reconsider. While the appeal/motion is pending the couple may wish to recommence the permanent residence process because Immigration has a lengthy processing time for appeals and motions.  In the meanwhile, the non-U.S citizen spouse could be placed in removal proceedings based on the fact that the previous permanent resident application has been denied. The bottom line is that this couple should run-not walk- to an attorney’s office before the 30 days has expired.

            In my practice I encounter a number of individuals who find themselves in the same position as the couple. Due to a lack of knowledge and sometimes finances, couples file their permanent resident applications without an attorney. These individuals then find themselves in trouble when their case is denied at their interview due to discrepancies. In September 2010, I will be conducting an in office workshop to assist individuals with interview preparation to help them avoid a denial due to “multiple discrepancies.” To obtain more information, please contact my office.



2.       A gentleman submitted his application for citizenship and then he was accused of domestic abuse by his wife. Should he wait or continue with his citizenship application?  Should he plead no contest to the domestic violence charge just to get it over with?


            First let me begin by saying that you should never plea “no contest” or guilty to any offense just to get the case resolved. The plea of “no contest” is legally the same as guilty. A plea of “no contest” simply means that you do not contest the court’s evidence of the domestic abuse of the wife’s allegations of domestic violence. Second, individuals who are permanent residents should never plea “no contest” or guilty simply to get the criminal case completed.  Permanent residents are not immune to deportation. In fact, a large number of my deportation cases involve permanent residents who are now facing deportation and the permanent revocation of their “green card” because of their criminal convictions in which they pled “no contest.”

            In this gentleman’s case a conviction for domestic violence is a legal basis for Immigration to deny his citizenship application and to deport him from the United States. A conviction of domestic violence is a crime of moral turpitude and it could be considered an aggravated felony for immigration purposes. In order to determine the severity of the domestic violence charge the gentleman should immediately consult with an immigration attorney. If this gentleman has already submitted his citizenship application he can continue with his immigration case while pursuing his criminal case. If he is able to resolve his criminal case in his favor he can simply present the court certified copy of case to the officer at his interview. However, if he is convicted of domestic violence while his citizenship application is pending he may wish to withdraw his citizenship application before he is scheduled for an interview. In addition, despite his withdrawal of the citizenship application he may still be subject to deportation based on his conviction. Again, in this scenario, this gentleman should run-not walk-to an attorney’s office that handles both criminal and immigration matters. 


Disclaimer: This article is a broad overview of a frequently asked question associated with acquiring permanent residence. This article is provided as a public service and is not intended to establish an attorney client relationship. Any reliance on the information contained herein is taken at your own risk. The information provided in this article should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.


About the Writer:
Safiya Byars is a native of Jamaica and an attorney in Decatur, Georgia. Her firm is located at 160 Clairemont Avenue, Ste. 200, Decatur, Georgia 30030. Her firm handles all Immigration Matters, Deportation, Domestic Relations, Criminal Defense, Business Formation and Litigation, Landlord/Tenant and Estate Planning.  To discuss your case, please contact Attorney Byars at 404-992-6506 or 678-954-5809 or via email.  or visit her firm’s website.    




About the author

Safiya Byars, Esq

Safiya Byars is the founder and senior partner of the Byars Firm. Attorney Byars serves as the Chair of the Family Immigration Continuing Learning Education and the Vice-Chair of the Immigration Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia. She is a native of Kingston, Jamaica. The Byars firm is located at 3720 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Suite D2, Chamblee, Georgia 30341. The Byars Firm handles Immigration, Family, and Estate Planning matters. We can be reached at 678-736-5600 and email: [email protected].