How a Retail Fraud Conviction Could Impact a United States Permanent Resident

Retail fraud is classified as a crime involving moral turpitude under United States immigration law. As a permanent resident in the United States, when you have a conviction of retail fraud, your immigration status will possibly be impacted in three aspects with that conviction. First, you may be deportable.  Second, you may be inadmissible at the time of return after travelling overseas. Third, the conviction can affect your application for naturalization.


Whether you are deportable with a retail fraud conviction depends on the maximum sentence carried under the status you are convicted and also upon how long you have been a permanent resident. If the retail fraud occurs within 5 years of your admission to the US, and the statute which you are convicted of carries a maximum sentence of one year or longer, you are deportable.

You will also be deportable if you have two or more retail fraud convictions. You should consult with an experienced immigration lawyer, such as the lawyers at Hilf & Hilf, PLC, when you face a deportable crime.


When an alien returns to the United States after visiting a foreign country, he or she is always subject to inspection at the border. For immigration purposes, this is called “admission”. The law governing aliens who return back to the United States after visiting another country is INA § 212 – Excludable Aliens. INA § 212 is more restrictive and less lenient than INA § 237, and therefore the consequences are sometimes more severe for aliens with a criminal conviction who leave the United States and try to return.

You may be considered inadmissible if your conviction for retail fraud carries a maximum sentence more than 12 months and you are sentenced to jail for more than 6 months. If you are considered “inadmissible”, you will be paroled into the United States and will be placed into removal proceedings. You will have a chance to see an immigration judge, either to fight the removal against you or to seek other avenues of relief which may be available to you to remain in the United States. Please remember that certain crimes that do not affect you in terms of being deported from the United States could make you “inadmissible”. Before leaving the United States for any reason you should consult with an experienced immigration lawyer, such as the lawyers at Hilf & Hilf, PLC, to become aware of any possible immigration related issues in advance.  When meeting with an immigration lawyer, it is important that you bring your complete records for your attorney to review.

Application for Naturalization

To apply for United States citizenship by naturalization, an applicant needs to establish that he or she has a good moral character. A conviction of crime involving moral turpitude within five years of application for naturalization can be evidence of lack of good moral character and thus result in the denial of such an application. An applicant with a conviction that is not a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT), can still be considered as a person with good moral character.  Good lawyering, coupled with supporting documents and information, can make a big difference in this determination.

If a retail fraud involves a loss to the victim more than $10,000.00 (ten thousand dollars), this is classified as an aggravated felony under the immigration law. You can be deported from United States without any discretionary relief possible if such a criminal conviction occurs.

Sometimes, a criminal lawyer can negotiate with state prosecutors to make a plea bargain for you to be convicted to a crime which is not a crime involving moral turpitude. Sometimes, a pretrial diversion program can be part of bargain so that you will not have a “conviction” for the immigration purpose.  In summary, do not enter a plea or travel outside US without consulting an immigration lawyer when there is a retail fraud charge against you.  When charged with a criminal offense you should always hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer, especially when there are possible immigration issues.  The law firm of Hilf & Hilf, PLC has experienced, respected, and reputable attorneys in both immigration law and criminal defense to provide you with the right combination of lawyers to address all of your potential issues.

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