A conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude can prevent you from getting a U.S. visa or green card (lawful permanent residence). Nolo’s article, “What’s a Crime of Moral Turpitude According to U.S. Immigration Law?” will give you the basics on what types of crimes fit this categorization.
If you were young when you committed the crime, you may be interested in the “youthful offender exception” (found in section 212(a)(2)(A)(ii)(I) of the Immigration and Nationality Act). As discussed in this article, the youthful offender exception -- which is different than a conviction in juvenile court -- stops a conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude from being an automatic bar to eligibility for legal status.
Your conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude will be excused if you meet the four following requirements:
For example, if you committed a crime involving moral turpitude the day before your 18th birthday, were tried and convicted as an adult, served six months in jail, and applied for a visa five years and one day after your release, you would be considered a youthful offender.
If you committed a crime involving moral turpitude when you were 16 years old, pled guilty in adult court, served two years in jail, and applied for a visa five years and one day after the date of your conviction, you would not be considered a youthful offender. You would need to wait two more years and apply when you had been out of jail for five years.
In order to show that your offense is covered by the youthful offender exception, you will need to provide the U.S. government with:
Procedures for obtaining a certified record of your conviction vary from court to court. You or your attorney should be able to get the records you need by contacting the clerk of the court in which you were convicted.
You can get evidence of the date of your release from jail by contacting the institution in which you were held, the department of justice for the state in which you were held, or your probation officer if you have one.
You should also provide a copy of the language of the statute under which you were convicted when you submit your immigration application. You can find most statutes on state websites or at the public library.
The youthful offender exception applies only to crimes involving moral turpitude. Many offenses, including most controlled substance violations, cannot be excused by the youthful offender exception.
Additionally, the youthful offender exception can be used to excuse only one offense. If you committed two or more crimes involving moral turpitude before turning 18, you will not be able to benefit from the youthful offender exception.
The youthful offender exception provides a way for certain immigrants convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude when they were young to remain eligible for admission to the United States. Even if you meet the requirements for the youthful offender exception, an immigration judge or USCIS officer may still consider your criminal past in evaluating your moral character.
Like all criminal issues in immigration law, the youthful offender exception is complicated and its availability depends on the specific circumstances of your case. If you have a criminal issue, it is best to see an experienced immigration attorney to help you determine how to proceed.