If you are not a U.S. citizen, any contact you have with police can affect your immigration status. Arrests can hurt your chances of getting a work visa, citizenship, or permanent residence.
If you are charged with a crime, you can:
- Plead not guilty and go to trial to let the judge or a jury decide your case based on the evidence
- Plead guilty
- Agree to a guilty plea to a less serious crime
If you are found guilty of a crime, the results can be serious. For example, you could:
- Have your application for citizenship or permanent residence denied
- Be deported
- Be put in detention while the deportation case is going on, or
- Be unable to return to the U.S. for years or, in some cases, be permanently barred from returning
This can be true even in the following cases:
- You are found guilty of a misdemeanor;
- You are given probation or court supervision;
- The conviction is very old;
- You have lived and worked in the U.S. for many years; or
- All of your family lives here.
Note: Sometimes lawyers tell their clients that if they plead guilty, and are sentenced only to court supervision, it is not really a conviction. This is true for criminal law, but this is not true for immigration law.
You should ask your criminal lawyer what might happen to your immigration status if you are found guilty. You may need to talk to an immigration lawyer as well as a criminal lawyer.
Learn more about Fighting criminal convictions and sentences.
Juvenile offenses do not count as convictions for immigration purposes. But you still have to disclose them to the government when you apply for an immigration benefit. You should get copies of all juvenile court records for your immigration lawyer to review.
If you commit a crime when you are under the age of 18, you might be charged as a juvenile offender in juvenile court. In that case, if the court finds you guilty, you will have an adjudication, or judgment of guilt, rather than a conviction.
The record of your conviction is supposed to be sealed, meaning that most people will not be able to find out about it. Under immigration law, your adjudication will not be considered a conviction. As long as you have lawful immigration status, the adjudication should not lead to you being deported.
But, even if you are under 18, you can still be tried in Illinois as an adult for some crimes. If you are tried and convicted as an adult, you can be deported.
If you are adjudicated, or judged, guilty in juvenile court in Illinois, you can sometimes get a blended sentence. A blended sentence means that you are given probation, but if you don’t follow your probation, you can be put in jail as an adult offender. Immigration courts might consider a blended sentence like this to be a criminal conviction, even if you never violate your probation.
Updated: November 2017