These days, it is not easy to get a job or housing benefits. And it is even tougher if you have a criminal record. To make things easier, criminal lawyers often recommend having your criminal record expunged or sealed. This can be great advice for people seeking work or housing benefits as you will effectively have no criminal record once your criminal record is expunged or sealed. Your Massachusetts CORI criminal history report will show “no adult criminal record,” and you can honestly say you have no criminal record when applying for jobs and housing benefits.
But sealing or expunging your criminal record does not free you from immigration consequences resulting from a criminal record. A conviction–even if it’s been sealed or expunged–can still trigger your deportation. And USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) can deny your green card or citizenship application because of a sealed or expunged criminal record.
And sealing or expunging also doesn’t free you from your obligation to disclose your criminal record on immigration forms. If you apply for adjustment of status, citizenship or a visa at a U.S. consulate abroad, you will have to disclose your criminal record, even if the case was sealed by a Massachusetts state court judge. Failure to disclose a sealed criminal record in an immigration interview could be considered false testimony, which would give USCIS grounds for denying your immigration case.
An even more complicated problem is that USCIS generally will not approve your green card or citizenship application unless you provide court-certified copies of the final disposition for each criminal appearance. But if your case is sealed, no record will exist in the court’s file. So it is generally impossible to obtain a certified disposition of your case once it has been sealed. The only solution to this dilemma would be to go back to Massachusetts state court and ask the judge to unseal your case simply so that you can get a copy of the disposition–not a fun task.
If you’re considering sealing or expunging your criminal record, and you don’t have U.S. citizenship, think through your options carefully and consult with a competent, effective. immigration lawyer. If you have more questions about how a criminal case could affect your immigration options, call my Boston office today at (617) 722-0005 and schedule a consultation. I’d be happy to offer you my advice.