The United States immigration system is a complex web of laws and regulations that can have profound consequences for non-citizens. One of the most severe implications involves the classification of certain crimes as aggravated felonies, which can lead to deportation and other serious immigration penalties.

As an attorney practicing immigration and criminal law in New York and New Jersey, I have navigated the challenging landscape of these legal matters. In this comprehensive guide, we will dissect the consequences of aggravated felonies and provide an organized and detailed understanding of this critical subject.

The United States immigration system is a complicated maze of rules and regulations that can greatly impact non-citizens. While the text already mentions the classification of certain crimes as aggravated felonies, one aspect that is not discussed is the potential for these crimes to also result in a loss of legal status and eligibility for certain immigration benefits, such as green cards or visas.


  1. Aggravated felonies: Crimes that have been specified by immigration law as triggers for deportation and other serious immigration consequences.
  2. Legal status: Refers to a person’s immigration status, determining their rights and privileges in the United States.
  3. Immigration benefits: Includes privileges granted to non-citizens, such as the ability to live, work, or study in the United States, and eligibility for certain benefits under immigration law.
  4. Green cards: Official documentation granting permanent residency in the United States.

Definition of an Aggravated Felony in the Immigration Context

1. Legal Background

An aggravated felony, as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), encompasses a broad range of criminal activities. This term is a legal designation specific to immigration law and does not necessarily correspond to felonies under state or federal criminal law.

2. Types of Crimes Included

The list of crimes considered aggravated felonies is extensive, including but not limited to:

  • Murder, rape, and sexual abuse of a minor
  • Illicit trafficking in drugs or firearms
  • Money laundering over $10,000
  • Crimes of violence with a sentence of at least one year
  • Theft or burglary with a sentence of at least one year
  • Racketeering or gambling offenses with a sentence of at least one year

3. Amendments and Expansions

Over the years, Congress has expanded the definition of aggravated felonies, encompassing an increasingly wide range of crimes.

Immigration Consequences of Aggravated Felonies

1. Deportation and Removal Proceedings

Non-citizens convicted of an aggravated felony face mandatory deportation. The law provides limited relief, and the usual defenses against deportation are often unavailable to those with such convictions.

2. Ineligibility for Relief

Individuals convicted of aggravated felonies are generally ineligible for most forms of relief, including:

  • Asylum
  • Voluntary departure
  • Cancellation of removal

3. Permanent Bars

An aggravated felony conviction often results in a permanent bar to re-entry into the United States and a prohibition from becoming a U.S. citizen.

Forms of Relief from Deportation

Despite the stringent rules surrounding aggravated felonies, certain narrow avenues for relief exist. It is crucial to consult with a legal expert to explore these options, which include:

1. Withholding of Removal 2. Protection under the Convention Against Torture

Legal Process and Protections

1. Due Process Rights

Even with an aggravated felony conviction, non-citizens are entitled to due process protections, including the right to an attorney and a fair hearing before an immigration judge.

2. Potential for Waivers and Pardons

In rare instances, waivers or pardons can be sought, but these are highly exceptional and subject to stringent criteria.

Strategies for Legal Defense

As an experienced attorney, I recommend the following strategic considerations:

1. Plea Bargaining

Negotiating a plea to a lesser offense that does not qualify as an aggravated felony is crucial.

2. Post-Conviction Relief

Exploring options for vacating or modifying a conviction based on legal deficiencies can sometimes remove the immigration consequences.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is an aggravated felony according to U.S. immigration law? A: An aggravated felony in U.S. immigration law refers to a broad category of crimes that carry severe immigration consequences, including deportation and ineligibility for most forms of immigration relief.

Q: Can a lawful permanent resident be deported for an aggravated felony? A: Yes, a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder) can be deported for a conviction of an aggravated felony.

Q: Is it possible to overturn a deportation order due to an aggravated felony conviction? A: Overturning a deportation order due to an aggravated felony conviction is extremely difficult, but certain narrow legal strategies may be available. These require the expertise of a skilled immigration attorney.

Q: Do aggravated felonies always result in a permanent ban from the U.S.? A: While not all aggravated felonies result in a permanent ban, many do. It’s essential to consult with an immigration lawyer to understand the specific consequences of a conviction.

Q: Can an aggravated felony be expunged and its immigration consequences eliminated? A: Expungement does not typically eliminate the immigration consequences of an aggravated felony. However, other forms of post-conviction relief may potentially alter the immigration impact.

By understanding the gravity of aggravated felony convictions and their substantial immigration consequences, non-citizens can better navigate their legal options. It is imperative for anyone facing criminal charges or deportation to seek the counsel of an experienced immigration attorney to mitigate the potential effects on their future.

If you’re seeking to expand your knowledge on immigration laws and related legal matters, the following articles offer valuable insights. From hiring practices regarding undocumented immigrants to understanding the complex web of familial ties and deportation, these pieces cover a range of topics that are pertinent to navigating the intricacies of the U.S. immigration system.

  1. 212(c) Waiver Lawyer
  2. Criminal and Immigration Attorney
  3. Aggravated Assault
  4. Asylum Lawyer
  5. Burglary Defense Lawyer
  6. Cancellation of Removal
  7. Criminal Defense Lawyer
  8. Cyber Crime Defense
  9. Deportation Defense
  10. Domestic Violence
  11. Drug Crimes
  12. Federal Immigration Crimes
  13. I-601 Waiver
  14. Immigration Appeals
  15. Immigration Bond
  16. Immigration Fraud Defense
  17. Motion 440.10 New York
  18. Motion to Change Venue
  19. Motion to Reopen
  20. Prosecutorial Discretion
  21. Reentry After Deportation
  22. Robbery
  23. S Visa
  24. Stay of Deportation Lawyer
  25. Theft Offenses
  26. U Visa Lawyer
  27. Writ Coram Nobis
  28. Writ Habeas Corpus