Foreign residents in the United States should have peace of mind that they are in no danger of removal from the country. One of the ways to help ensure confidence in a long term stay in the U.S. is to know what the federal government requires of foreign residents to retain their residency. Maintaining good behavior is one of those requirements.
Good behavior involves keeping a record clean of criminal acts, particularly crimes that involve moral turpitude. While committing a crime may not result in immediate deportation, engaging in a serious or egregious offense will likely result in the government revoking residency.
Defining crimes of moral turpitude
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, crimes that involve moral turpitude are not actually defined as part of statutory law. So the government cannot point to wording in a law that says a crime is one of moral turpitude. Instead, the government draws upon what courts have said in case law regarding these crimes to assert that a crime reaches the standard of moral turpitude.
Defining intention to commit serious crimes
Generally, the kinds of laws that involve moral turpitude are malicious acts committed against another person, property, or the authority of the government. Possible examples include sexual assault, fraud against a person, robbery, counterfeiting, or bribery of a government official.
An important component of a crime involving moral turpitude is whether the perpetrator had willful knowledge that the act was wrong and of the malicious nature of the offense. Without establishing that a person possessed guilty knowledge, the government may have a harder time showing that the person is guilty of a crime involving moral turpitude.
Differences among the states
Crimes that involve moral turpitude may differ between states because of how the states define the crimes. A crime that may have the same name in both states may actually be a lesser offense in one state because of how that state defines the crime. This difference in definition may lead to an immigration officer asserting that a foreign resident has committed a serious crime without realizing the offense is not actually serious in nature.