Wed | Mar 21, 2018

Immigration Corner | How will my past affect me?

Published:Tuesday | October 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

When I was younger, I was convicted for a crime of theft and given a two-year suspended sentence. That was over 10 years ago. Now I have met someone and we are getting married. He lives in the United States (US) and wants to file for me to live with him. I am worried that the filing won't go through because of my criminal record. Is there any way that I can obtain a waiver so that when I get married I can join my husband?

- S

Dear S,

Having a criminal conviction does make you inadmissible to the US. Depending on what the crime was that you committed, there might be a waiver available for the inadmissibility.

In your situation, it does not matter how long ago the crime was committed; you would still be inadmissible to the US. The timing of the crime can, however, be significant in the discussion for a waiver.

Your husband will have to file a regular petition and you will receive an appointment at the embassy for an immigrant visa interview. You will have to prove the validity of your marriage and your relationship with your husband. If your marriage is deemed to be valid and you would otherwise be eligible for a green card, you will be advised that your petition is denied because of your criminal record. If the crime is eligible for a waiver, the consular officer will advise you of same in writing - usually at the time of the interview. Your crime might be held as a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude, but you will need to wait until the interview to see how the particular crime is classified by the embassy.

To qualify for a waiver, your husband will have to prove that he is experiencing extreme hardship that will only be eliminated if you are allowed to join him in the States, and why he is unable to live with you in Jamaica. You will also need to show rehabilitation. Normally, a US citizen husband filing for a wife outside the States can expect to be joined by his spouse in nine months to a year. When a waiver is involved, this can extend the process by up to another year or more.

- Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida.