The United States is currently home to around 35 million lawful immigrants. Many are citizens but some are permanent residents – green card holders who have not yet become naturalized US citizens. Others are on short-term visas, such as student and employment visas.

US citizens – whether from birth or naturalized – cannot usually be deported. If you’re not yet a US citizen, there are reasons why you can be deported back to your home country and typically they relate to a deportable offense an immigrant commits.

It’s important to be aware of what offenses constitute deportable crimes. Staying on the right side of the law will help to ensure that your stay in the country is never put in jeopardy. Let’s explore what deportable offenses are so that you can avoid them.

What Are Deportable Offenses?

If the US has allowed you to enter the country either with a visa or green card, it’s on the understanding that you will abide by the law at all times. If you’re hoping to one day become a citizen, you must demonstrate ‘good moral character’.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines this as measuring up to the “standards of average citizens of the community” where you live. You must be able to demonstrate that you have met this requirement before taking the Oath of Allegiance.

Crimes of moral turpitude and aggravated felonies are deportable crimes, depending on other factors. There are also criminal offenses that, while not as serious, may prevent the USCIS from viewing you as a person of good moral character.

The Deportation Process

If you’re found guilty or otherwise to have committed a deportable offenses, the United States may decide to start deportation proceedings. This can happen regardless of how long you’ve lived in the United States.

They may hold you in a detention center before your trial or deportation. Deportation takes place at the U.S. government’s expense and it usually happens by air, although sometimes a deportation will be executed by way of land (bus) when the country of return borders the U.S.

During this time, you have the right to legal counsel. A Chicago immigration attorney can review your case and give you advice about your legal options.

If you get deported, you will find it very difficult to re-enter the United States on any type of visa in the future. This is known as inadmissibility.

Grounds for Deportation

In 2021, the United States deported 59,011 persons. This included 39,149 convicted criminals and 5,221 aggravated felons.

These crimes fall into the following categories of deportable offenses.

Crimes of Moral Turpitude

Moral turpitude is not an expression we hear every day. It relates to behavior that is beyond the normal standards accepted in the community. This leaves it open to interpretation and it is not clearly defined by US CIS or the courts.

Some crimes that have been classed as crimes of moral turpitude and have been used as reasons for deportation include:

  • Murder
  • Kidnapping
  • Child abuse
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Fraud

This is just a snapshot and does not by any means cover every scenario. Some states may issue their own rulings on whether an offense falls into this category or not. That’s why it’s crucial to get advice from an experienced immigration attorney if your immigration status is called into question due to a crime of moral turpitude.

A crime of moral turpitude may not automatically be grounds for deportation. The length of time you have lived in the US and the number of crimes you have committed will also be taken into account.

It will be considered a deportable offense if:

  • Convicted of one of these crimes with a prison sentence of one year or longer
  • Occurs within 5 years of arriving in the country


  • You commit two or more crimes

Some of these crimes can also be considered aggravated felonies, which is a more serious classification.

Aggravated Felony

Aggravated felonies, in terms of immigration law, are set out in the US Immigration and Nationality Act. Like other classes of deportable offenses, this list includes offenses under both state and  federal, law.

Some examples include:

  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Money laundering – over $10,000
  • Fraud – over $10,000
  • Sexual offenses, including child pornography and sexual abuse of a minor
  • Certain crimes where a prison sentence of more than one year is ordered, including particular violent crimes.

This list is not comprehensive and there are other offenses that fall into this category. An immigration attorney can be of assistance, including even before an immigrant is convicted, so that a strategy to allow the immigrant to avoid deportation altogether might be implemented.

Controlled Substance Offenses

Crimes that involve having any part in the manufacture, sale, distribution, or possession of drugs can lead to deportation.

Laws around the possession of marijuana vary from state to state. However, this is a particularly strict area of immigration law, with many offenses leading to deportation.

Domestic Violence

Immigration authorities can use convictions for domestic violence offenses as grounds for deportation. This can also include related crimes, such as child neglect or abandonment and stalking.

Firearms Offenses

Firearms offenses are also crimes that often lead to deportation including illegal acts relating to:

  • Buying a gun
  • Selling a gun
  • Carrying a gun
  • Using a gun

Many crimes of moral turpitude and aggravated felonies also include the use of firearms.

How a Chicago Immigration Attorney Can Help

It’s essential for any noncitizen facing criminal charges to consult with an immigration attorney before either going to trial or agreeing to guilty plea. This will help you to understand the impact of a particular conviction on your immigration status and options to defend against deportation .

In planning a defense to criminal charges, a noncitizen will find that a Chicago immigration attorney can also help plan for the next steps of preventing deportation and applying for relief before an Immigration Judge, such as, for example, by requesting Cancellation of Removal for Lawful Permanent Residents.   This relief is available if the noncitizen fulfills various important requirements including by demonstrating he/she:

  • Is not an aggravated felon
  • Has been a lawful permanent resident for 5 years or more and
  • Has lived in the US for 7 years under another lawful status/es

An experienced immigration attorney has an in-depth understanding of the law and the experience to give you practical advice.

Time to Seek Legal Help

If you’ve been arrested for what is possibly a deportable offense, it’s time to seek legal help from an experienced immigration attorney. Richard Hanus has represented clients for over 25 years. He combines experience with up-to-date knowledge of immigration law to give you the best chance of success.

Contact our office today to request an in-person consultation to discuss your case.