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What is the Difference Between Deportable vs. Inadmissible in Immigration Law?

immigration law

Within United States immigration law, two distinct concepts are often referred to. Inadmissibility and deportability both play a role in whether someone can remain in the United States lawfully.

In general, the legal terms "deportable" and "inadmissible" apply to noncitizens where certain criminal convictions prevent them from either remaining in the United States or obtaining permanent residency in the United States. “Deportability” means the power and ability of US immigrations agencies to deport -- expel -- a person from the US. "Inadmissible" refers to the power and ability of US immigration agencies to prevent a person from being “admitted” into the United States. However, an admission to the United States is a distinct concept from an entry into the United States, and someone can be admitted into the United States as a permanent resident without ever leaving or re-entering the country.

Depending on the crime, a criminal conviction can trigger both "deportability" and "inadmissibility." However, under some circumstances, a criminal conviction will trigger only "inadmissibility." When that happens, "inadmissible" status is only relevant if the person voluntarily leaves the US -- to visit relatives, for example -- and then seeks to return.

In general, conviction for any type of felony, particularly an “aggravated felony,” will trigger deportability. Likewise, conviction for any crime that is considered a crime of moral turpitude (“CMT”) will trigger deportability if the crime was committed within five years of admission and for which the non-citizen could have received a sentence of one year or more. Further, deportability will be triggered for TWO convictions of CMTs regardless of when the crimes are committed.

  1. What is a crime involving moral turpitude?

Common crimes involving moral turpitude are crimes involving intentional harm, such as murder and domestic violence as well as crimes against property, such as theft.

It is important to note that, in most cases, a conviction is required as a key legal element for deportability. If a non-citizen is NOT convicted, then deportability cannot be triggered with respect to the alleged crime. By contrast, conviction is NOT a required legal element for inadmissibility. Inadmissibility can be triggered if the non-citizen simply admits a crime to U.S. immigration officials, if conviction of such crime would lead to deportability and/or inadmissibility.

Here are some examples.

Murder: Being charged and convicted of murder will trigger both deportability and inadmissibility. Murder is considered an "aggravated felony" and, as noted, all "aggravated felonies" are deportable offenses. Further, murder is considered a CMT which is a second basis for inadmissibility if the crime occurred within the first five years after admission.

Drug offenses: With some rare exceptions, a conviction with respect to possession, trafficking or manufacture of any controlled substance, as defined by FEDERAL law, is a deportable offense and triggers inadmissibility. This is true even for cannabis/marijuana which remains a controlled substance at the federal level (even though possession of cannabis is legal in many States in the U.S.). If there has been no conviction, inadmissibility can still be triggered if a non-citizen admits to marijuana or other drug use, possession or manufacture to a U.S. immigration or other official. Further, inadmissibility is triggered if a Department of State or a Department of Homeland Security official has a “reason to believe” that a noncitizen is or was a drug trafficker.

Stealing (theft): Depending on whether the theft is charged as a felony, a conviction for theft can trigger both deportability and inadmissibility. Generally, state law governs whether theft is a felony or a non-felony and, generally, the definition depends on the value of what is stolen. Many states consider non-felony theft to occur if the value of what was stolen was less than $1,000. Non-felony theft is generally punished with a possible prison sentence of less than one year. If the possible sentence is less than one year, deportability is not typically triggered. However, all theft, regardless of value, is considered a CMT. Thus, conviction of non-felony theft can trigger inadmissibility and, if the theft occurred within five years after admission, then even a conviction for non-felony theft can trigger deportability. Likewise, two convictions for non-felony theft, both being CMTs, will trigger deportability.

Contact Yekrangi & Associates Today

For more information, contact the Orange County Immigration Attorneys at Yekrangi & Associates today. You are not alone and we will fight for you. Yekrangi & Associates works to meet a higher standard. Our first goal is your satisfaction. Contact us at (949) 478-4963 to schedule a consultation or complete our convenient “Get Your Consultation” form here. We are located in Irvine, California.


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