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What is an Aggravated Felony Under Immigration Law?

What is an Aggravated Felony Under Immigration Law?

Under U.S. immigration law, an aggravated felony is a crime that carries a particularly tough consequence if the crime is perpetrated by a non-citizen of the United States. Even non-violent, misdemeanor offenses can qualify as aggravated felonies, such as sales or distribution of a controlled substance (including marijuana). This is generally because Congress has determined that individuals who seek admission to the country should adhere to a particularly high standard of personal conduct.

The Immigration and Nationality Act lists more than two dozen offenses that the U.S. may determine are aggravated felonies. Although the Immigration and Nationality Act is a federal law, it applies to crimes prosecuted at the state level. These include but are not limited to:

  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Drug trafficking
  • Firearms trafficking
  • Money laundering
  • Tax evasion
  • Theft (over $10,000)
  • Kidnapping
  • Counterfeiting
  • Alien smuggling
  • Prostitution
  • Failure to appear in court pursuant to a court order

It is also worth noting that an attempt to commit any of these crimes or others on the list can also qualify as an aggravated felony.

If a non-citizen is convicted of an aggravated felony -- lawful permanent residents included -- then the consequences for the non-citizen is severe. They include but are not limited to:

Cancellation of Removal Ineligibility

The non-immigrant is not eligible for cancellation of removal.

Asylum Ineligibility

Any immigrant convicted of an aggravated felony is not eligible for asylum. This means that the U.S. will not grant the individual protection from persecution, however, they may eligible for Withholding of Removal or Deferral of Removal under the United Nations Conventions Against Torture.

Visa or Green Card and Naturalization Ineligibility

A non-citizen with an aggravated felony cannot apply for a visa, green card or apply for naturalization.


An non-citizen with an aggravated felony also faces deportation and removal hearings.

If a non-citizen is in removal proceedings and has a conviction that qualifies as an aggravated felony, then he has some options. These include but are not limited to:

Withholding of Removal and Convention Against Torture (CAT)

If the crime that qualifies as an aggravated felony is deemed not particularly serious - the person may be eligible for withholding of removal or deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture, also known as CAT - then the undocumented immigrant might avoid deportation if his life or freedom would be threatened if he returned home.


In certain cases, depending on the year of the conviction, the non-citizen can seek a waiver under Section 212(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This applies when deporting the person would cause extreme hardship to him and his family.

To attempt either of these legal actions or others designed to keep him in the United States, the undocumented immigrant needs an experienced immigration attorney who understands the law and who will protect his rights. Facing deportation with an aggravated felony requires the help of an experience immigration attorney.

Contact Yekrangi & Associates.