Sponsoring Your Spouse When You Have a Criminal Record

The Shapiro Law Group

Whether a U.S. citizen with a criminal record can sponsor a spouse for a green card or not depends on the type of crime involved and the USCIS agent reviewing the case. There are crimes that won’t create a problem but there are also those that make it impossible to be approved. When a person applies for a marriage green card, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will want to know the interaction that the U.S. citizen sponsor and the spouse seeking a green card have had with law enforcement and this involves conducting background and security checks.

A U.S. citizen is automatically ineligible from sponsoring a spouse for a green card if he or she was convicted for certain offenses against a minor. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act– which was passed in 2006 and now part of the Immigration and Nationality Act- contains a list of the specific offenses, including:

  • Solicitation of a minor to engage in sexual conduct or practice prostitution
  • Use of a minor in a sexual performance
  • Production, possession, or distribution of child pornography
  • An offense involving kidnapping or false imprisonment (unless committed by a parent or guardian)
  • Video Voyeurism
  • The use of the internet to attempt or facilitate a criminal sexual conduct involving a minor.

Disclosing the Required Information

The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) helps prevent domestic violence against foreign fiancés. Under this act, the U.S. citizen petitioner is required to disclose convictions and the fiancé should be given a pamphlet on domestic violence. K-1 visas give foreign citizens a privilege to enter the U.S. and marry their American citizens and careful steps must be taken to ensure that these privileges are not abused by drug traffickers and other criminals.

A U.S. citizen petitioner who has any violent criminal history such as domestic violence, sexual assault, or substance abuse must provide a full disclosure in the petition, including copies of court records and a detailed explanation. Even if the record has been cleared and the file has been sealed, details of such cases must be disclosed. The crimes that an individual should report are included in Part 3 of the I-129F form.