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PETTY THEFT, GREEN CARDS AND CITIZENSHIP

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Pretty Clothes are a Big Temptation

Pretty Clothes are a Big Temptation

Sometimes the temptation to steal something from an American department store is overwhelming. It looks easy. It looks like no one is watching. The shopping selection is amazing compared to another country’s stores. The temptation can sweep a person away when they have gone without for so long, or don’t have a steady paycheck to buy nice things.

Even when married to a U.S. citizen, it gets old having to ask a husband or wife to buy every little thing. A new dress makes all the difference.  What could it hurt?

Here is Amelia’s story:

Hello Danielle!

This is Amelia Smith and my husband is Richard Jones. I am from Uzbekistan. Remember, we live in California and you helped us successfully in getting my green card this year in June? It is a conditional two year green card based on my marriage to Richard, who is a U.S. citizen.

On July 21th I made a terrible mistake and I am experiencing the worst time in my life. I am so embarrassed to say that I was accused of committing a misdemeanor California Penal Code 484(a) petty theft and today the Criminal Court Judge sentenced me to 12 months probation and a fine of $360. I also have to finish 30 hours of volunteer work. The Judge believed I was sincere when I said I was so sorry for what I did to American Society . . . I promised Richard I am never going to put my legal status at risk again… I learned my lesson!!! even though it was most shameful thing according to my own personal standards. I don’t know what I was thinking when I took those items from the department store. It was very humiliating to get caught.

I want to turn to you for legal advise since you know me and handled my green card case . . . I was told by my criminal defense attorney that I am not going to have trouble getting the 10 year green card but I may have to wait 2 additional years in order to apply for citizenship — are those things true?

Of course I must STAY OUT OF TROUBLE for a year so I can seal my record BUT Immigration and the American Government will always know what I did (I was booked and fingerprinted).

Dear Danielle, could you please let me know is anything I should be aware of? The information I got is correct? I’m just so worried even though today was a relief after all my tortured time waiting to see the Criminal Court Judge. Thank you, I will appreciate your response.

American Dept. Store

American Dept. Store

Amelia should have contacted her immigration attorney before pleading guilty to anything, to learn the answers to her legal status questions.  If she didn’t have an immigration attorney she should have hired one. Often, criminal defense attorneys are not aware of the negative consequences that can happen to a green card holder (or the law has changed since they last checked), so it is best to talk to your immigration attorney before going before the Criminal Court Judge. There are many immigration attorneys who specialize in helping green card holders who have been accused of a crime.

In Amelia’s case, was stealing the new pretty dress worth it?  No.  She spent money for the criminal defense attorney and for an immigration attorney.  She had to pay court fines.  She did damage to her relationship with her new husband, who began to doubt his trust in her with regard to all money matters.  However, eventually he started to understand how hard it is to adjust to a new country, a new culture, and the pressure that put on her  – and to forgive her. And her USA citizenship was approved.

Many other countries do not punish people for stealing – if they are caught they are just asked to return the item and the whole incident is forgotten.  In the U.S., however, it is common for the store security guard or the store manager to call the police when they catch someone stealing. For people not used to seeing open displays of merchandise, the urge to pick up a few items may be very tempting.  But they must try to control the urge to commit this minor crime becaues the cost can become very expensive if they have to pay for a criminal defense attorney, an immigration attorney, and possibly lose their job.

Do Your Research Before Filing for Citizenship with a Petty Theft Conviction

Shoplifting (often called petty theft) is normally considered a misdeanor if the value of the merchandise is less than a certain amount, usually $300 or $500. When applying for citizenship it is necessary to show that a person has been a person of “good moral character” for the past 5 years (3 years for persons married to a U.S. citizen).

A single arrest for one petty theft sometimes may be excused under the “petty theft exception” so long as the person is not on probation at the time of the citizenship interview, and so long as they were not sentenced by the judge to 12 months jail time (even if the jail time was “suspended” and they spent no time in jail). There are other considerations too numerous to list here – because all 50 states have different petty theft laws, and because the criminal court state judges vary so much regarding how they sentence violators.

Suspended Jail Sentences: When is a Petty Theft Conviction Really Considered an Aggravated Felony by Immigration Officials (Even if the Criminal Conviction Paperwork Says “Misdemeanor”)?

In some American states, the criminal conviction paperwork says that a petty theft is just a “misdemeanor.” Do not let that fool you. That does not mean that immigration will agree that the petty theft is a misdemeanor.

Immigration (using federal laws) sometimes has a different definition of petty theft (and other crimes) than states do (using state laws).  For example, I was recently contacted by a green card holder who was convicted of stealing $18 worth of clothes from Penny’s. A state criminal judge sentenced her to 12 months in jail and then “suspended” the 12 months in jail and put her on probation.  She got off of probation and filed for citizenship, which was denied – and she was placed in deportation proceedings.  What did she do wrong?

In her case, was the green card holder technically sentenced to 12 months jail, even though she did not go to jail?  Yes!  If a person is sentenced to 12 months in jail, immigration defines the petty theft as an aggravated felony due to the 12 month sentence, not a misdemeanor. She stands convicted of an aggravated felony due to the 12 month sentence. The fact that the sentence was suspended is irrelevant for immigration purposes.

In a case where there is a jail sentence (even suspended) of 12 months, immigration will not excuse the petty theft for citizenship; instead immigration will deny citizenship and put the green card holder into deportation (called “removal”) proceedings. The green card holder should have hired a criminal defense attorney to get the sentence for the petty theft conviction reduced before applying for citizenship.

TIP:  Please have your criminal conviction paperwork reviewed by an immigration attorney before submitting your N400 or I-485 or I-751 even if you think it is a simple petty theft.  I am not trying to be overly dramatic . . it is very sad to get contacted by someone who is now in deportation proceedings when all they did was take $10 worth of food for their family.

__________________________________________

Photography by Blue Horizon Studios

Call Attorney Danielle Nelisse at (619) 235-8811 in  San Diego,  California if you want to discuss legal representation for your citizenship or  marriage green card case.

There is no charge for a brief telephone call or email questions.  However, I cannot tell you over the phone if your petty theft will be excused or not because an immigration attorney needs to read your court paperwork in order to tell you whether it is ok or not.

Email danielle@immigrationworkvisa.com or call (619) 235-8811 or (877) 884-6644 to ask about her being your attorney in your case.

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63 comments on “PETTY THEFT, GREEN CARDS AND CITIZENSHIP

  1. sheldon
    November 5, 2013

    hi I have gotten a permanent resident card for two years now I am schedule to fly to my home country in December unfortunately I have been arrested for driving on a suspended license will I be able to come back into the country I am also schedule to be back in court on jan 22nd for the suspended license and unpaid ticket

    • immigrationworkvisa
      November 7, 2013

      Dear Sheldon,

      I am sorry this happened to you. Please go see an Immigration Attorney near you and show them your court documents and ask them this question. Please do not rely on free blog articles for something so important.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  2. meggy
    October 20, 2013

    Hi,
    Can you help me,
    I stole the things For 120$ yesturday 10/18/13 I was arrested,I have a court date next month,I had applied citizenship 2 months ago,I was on taking fingers print too,I’m waiting for interview now,I have nine years resident green card,It was my first offense,what should i do?what a layer hire?

    • immigrationworkvisa
      October 22, 2013

      Dear Meggy,

      Sorry that happened to you. Yes I would talk to both a criminal defense attorney and an immigration attorney.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  3. leena
    February 20, 2013

    Hi, I made a mistake as a teen and now I made another mistake in 2009 as well. When I was 16 I was working and using the store coupons and I think I was charged with Theft, the problem is, I don’t know what the charge was and I don’t have any paperwork to prove it. But the 2009 incident, I do have the paperwork to show that my theft charge was dismissed. So now I don’t know how to answer the citizenship application about the incident when I was a teen happened and the outcome of it. Please help.

    • immigrationworkvisa
      March 12, 2013

      Dear Leena:

      It sounds like you need to ask the police department and/or the juvenile court for your criminal records. If they have nothing, ask them if they can give you a paper stating they have nothing. Then, pay an immigration attorney to look at all of your court records and give you a legal opinion. Please do not rely on free blog advice for something so important.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse
      http://www.immigrationworkvisa.com

  4. Anonymous
    January 23, 2013

    I have a similar case with up posted cases. I was arrested for petit larceny in NY in 2002.
    now, I am applying green card in NJ through my husband who has a citizen.
    when I was arrested, I stayed one night in jail and payed fenalty(about $60) with 5 hours community service.
    however, I clearly remember that the lawyer told me that I have to say I wasn’t arrested for this case, because I cried a big time and worried about my future in USA.

    in this case, what should I do? I still have to address my arrest?
    is there any way I can take a look about my case before my husband?

    Thank you so much in advance for your reply.

  5. ROMS
    December 2, 2012

    Im 21 years old, and last week i got cough shoplifting for the second time. the first time i had to pay the fines and go to a class and the case was dismissed, but this time i dont know whats gonna happen to me and im really scare. Im supposted to apply for citizenship next year and i want to know what can i do for my citizenship to get accepted! both crimes happened at a retail store for about $40 each, i would do anything for my record to be dismissed again. Im a full time student, A student, and just a studid kid with bad decissions. please tell me where should i start, and i dont think i would afford an attorney… thats my biggest concerned

    • immigrationworkvisa
      January 4, 2013

      Dear Roms:

      You should not rely on free blogs for legal advice in your case. If I could answer you I would. Now that you have made these mistakes, you will need to hire an immigration attorney to analyze your eligibility for citizenship. Sorry about that, but your future is important.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse
      http://www.immigrationworkvisa.com

  6. Priya
    November 29, 2012

    Hi, I have been given ticket for petit larceny in virginia for stealing goods worth $20. I have been asked to appear in court two months from now. I am 7 months pregnant and in the process of getting green card. What would be the best thing for me to do, should i plea guilty or non-guilty and hire an attorney? Is petit larceny going to affect my green card processing?

    • immigrationworkvisa
      January 4, 2013

      Dear Priya:

      Please do not rely on free blogs – your future is too important.

      You are entitled to a public defender in Virginia for your criminal case. You do not have to pay a criminal defense attorney. The public defender may be able to tell you the immigration consequences of your plea. If they can’t, you will need to hire an immigration attorney to review your court documents and give you the answers you seek; most charge $150 for this service.

      Kind regards,
      Danielle Nelisse
      http://www.immigrationworkvisa.com

  7. malo
    November 21, 2012

    Hello,
    I am not a permanent resident and my political asylum case is in the process. I have a court date in few months. Something terrible occurred, now I can’t even understand how could such a thing happened to me, I was caught with a merchandise of total amount 440$. I was put in a jail for a night then I paid a bail. I have a court day which is a month prior of my emigration court date. Will it affect my emigration process, what can I do? I was also waiting for my work permit, will I get it?
    Thank you very much
    Regards
    Malo

  8. Maria
    November 12, 2012

    I was charged for theft 3 and my criminal lawyer reduced my charge to criminal trespass 2 which is not moral turpitude! He was consulted by immigration lawyer! I plead guilty to trespassed and 2 days community service, theft class and fines! I’m goi to terminate my 2 year probation early with help of my lawyer! I have lived here for 8 years with green card and this is my first offence! I’m planning to go for vacation to Canada (I’m Canadian citizen) and come back here, but I’m afraid if I will hold from immigration when I enter! My immigration lawyer said not to worry but still I’m scared to leave this country! I have family here and this is my home! Please advise before I take any risk! Do you think I will have problem with immigration with this case!

    • Cyntz
      April 28, 2013

      Hi Maria i’m wondering if you traveled outside united and come back without having a problem to the DHS? Because i have same situation with you and i want to travel too to other country and i’m afraid that they ill gonna hold me..please reply.thank you

  9. Maria
    October 26, 2012

    I was petit thef in publix store in 2010 for 9 dolar, this day i forgot my ID and the police put me in jail for some hours. now i have my appoiment for citizen in nov 2012 , this year. Never before happened something like that. I payed to the store and they sent me a letter in whish told me every thing ok , no more problems with them. Never was convicted and i had not to go the court. Can i have problem with my naturalization?. Thank you.

  10. mary
    September 20, 2012

    Does a civil demand letter show on any background checks?If I got caught stealing while being on a JI visa and no police was called in just the security guards will I be able to come back to the US?Can they still sue me if the police was not called in at that moment and now I am already out of the US?Thank you!

    • immigrationworkvisa
      September 20, 2012

      Dear Mary:

      It sounds like you are going to have to hire an american attorney to respond to the civil demand letter and find out the answers to all of your questions. Each case is different, so I cannot answer your questions in a free blog. Sorry.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

    • Anonymous
      October 21, 2012

      Can a civil demand be a problem for someone who wants to become a US citizen? There was no police called, no arrest and no charges pressed against the person. He just received a civil demand letter and he paid off the amount. Is there any way for Immigration to know about this civil demand? Thanks in advance!

      • immigrationworkvisa
        October 22, 2012

        Hi Anonymous:

        It’s hard to say. There are 50 american states and it is my understanding that there may be 50 different types of civil demand letters, which are issued according to each state’s laws. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

        Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse
        http://www.immigrationworkvisa.com

  11. dida
    September 12, 2012

    I am 10 year green card holder since july 2011, jun 2012 In centry 21 department store i was caught by stealing worth $70 stuff. “I had ACD and my lawyer told me that my case will be dismissed after 6months. ” but i will travel outside of u.s.. 2013. I plan to apply citizenship for the trip, will i have any trouble to pass the interview to become a citizen? do i need to wait 3 years to apply? will i have trouble back u.s. ? should i bring all the paperwork from the court or need my lawyer write anything for me?

    thank you

    • Cyntz
      April 28, 2013

      Hi dida, just wondering if you traveled outside u.s already because i have same situation with you and i wanna travel outside u.s also next month but afraid of leaving because the DHS might going to hold me at the airport..please reply if you did and what happenned?thank you

  12. jin
    September 9, 2012

    I am 10 year green card holder since july 2005, july 2011 In centry 21 department store i was caught by stealing worth $40 stuff. “I had ACD and my lawyer told me that my case will be dismissed after 6months. ” but i will travel outside of u.s.. 2013. I plan to apply citizenship for the trip, will i have any trouble to pass the interview to become a citizen? do i need to wait 3 years to apply? will i have trouble back u.s. ? should i bring all the paperwork from the court or need my lawyer write anything for me?

    thank you

  13. Yoon
    September 6, 2012

    Hi,

    So last year on August 30th, 2011, I was caught shop lifting at Kmart. I was arrested and the police took my fingerprints and everything. I was charged by Kmart $200 fine for about $100 worth of items that I stole. After a year, I have checked with the Guam Marshals and they told me that my case has been cleared. However, my green card was taking quite some time to come out and today the Immigration has emailed me regarding my criminal record and asking for the attachment of evidence and whatnot. Should I be worried that my green card may be denied? What should I do? D:

    • immigrationworkvisa
      September 6, 2012

      Dear Yoon:

      I highly recommend that you obtain a complete certified copy of your criminal record and then pay an immigration attorney to review those documents and give you their legal opinion before submitting them to the USCIS.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse
      http://www.immigrationworkvisa.com

  14. Anonymous
    August 11, 2012

    Dear Danielle,

    My question involves criminal law for the state of: New York

    I was caught shoplifting in Apple store in New york City.
    The value of merchandise being more than $100, I was arrested and taken to the precinct and booked. The court notice mentioned the charge as Larceny but also mentioned ACD – adjournment in contemplation of dismissal. And my case dismisses today.
    I was told by the lawyer there that ACD will disappear when the case be sealed, as something that never happened.

    The thing is: I am from Brazil, I have a legal tourist VISA and everything. I go to NYC every year to spend my college vacation. The 6 months of “clean nose” are gone and the case was dismissed on 08/10. So, the question is:
    — Will I have problem to go back to NY again after my case is dismissed? Will I have a problem with the immigration? Firgerprints or something?
    I’m asking that because I was arrested and fingerprinted in the police station. I don’t want to be deported on my vacation. By the way, I’m going to NY next december.

    Look what my lawyer said to me:

    “Your case is going to be dismissed. There is nothing either of us need to do. Once it is dismissed and sealed, you’re free to travel back to the US as you please.”

    I don’t know if I believe 100% in that. What do you think?

    Thank you.

    • immigrationworkvisa
      August 13, 2012

      Dear Anonymous:

      You are smart to check this out. I advise you to hire an Immigration Attorney in New York that specializes not only in immigration law, but immigration law and New York state criminal law. Pay that Immigration Attorney to review all of your petty theft documents and email you a written legal opinion about your eligibility to re-enter the USA. If the written legal opinion states you may re-entry (and why) you can carry that legal opinion with you when you re-enter the USA.

      You can find reliable immigration attorneys on http://www.aila.org.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse
      http://www.immigrationworkvisa.com

  15. Bruno
    August 10, 2012

    Hi, I’m almost on the same boat, but I hired an attorney the day after I committed this act. We went to court left with a “no contest” plea and we convinced the DA to reduce the misdemeanor to a Trespassing misdemeanor. I am planning to apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, should I not? I’m planning on consulting a lawyer but I want to know what to expect. I had to choose either 5 days in jail, or 5 day of community labor and I chose community labor of course, with a 24 moth probation and a $180 fine. I live in CA by the way.

    • immigrationworkvisa
      August 10, 2012

      Dear Bruno:

      You will need to wait until August 15, 2012 when all of the DACA Work Permit (Dream Act) rules are released. Then you will bring your court documents to an Immigration Attorney near you who specializes not only in Immigration Law, but also California Criminal Law. AFTER August 15, 2012. If an attorney tries to give you legal advise prior to August 15, 2012, how do they know the final rules?

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse
      http://www.immigrationworkvisa.com

      • vivian
        August 14, 2012

        hi, i was arrested for shoplifting when i was a teen
        but i never recieved any paperwork or netiher went to court..
        i went to court a couple days ago to see if that appeard in my record,but they told me nothing come up!!!
        NOW my question is…..
        in the dream act application it ask if i have ever been arreste,charge or been convicted of a misdemeanor?
        what should i say?

        • immigrationworkvisa
          August 15, 2012

          Dear V:

          You should not lie on the DACA application about an arrest. The rules say they can deport you if you commit fraud (lie).
          Your fingerprints for the shoplifting may be in their computer system – many courts destroy their records after a few years, but your fingerprints are normally in the system for life. It is NOT good to come to this conclusion: “the court doesn’t have my records so they won’t know about this arrest”

          Regards, DN
          http://www.immigrationworkvisa.com

  16. Shelly
    July 20, 2012

    hi, I was sentenced 20 hours of community service, 18 months on probabtion and pay fine. The max of my case is 6months in jail. Would it be considered petty theft offense? I’m due to apply citizenship next year and this incident was in 2011
    Thank you

    • immigrationworkvisa
      July 23, 2012

      Dear ShellY;

      I’m sorry, but I cannot tell you that it is safe for your to apply for citizenship without analyzing your court paperwork and your entire history- that would be very irresponsible of me. If you don’t want to hire an immigration attorney to represent you for your citizenship application, please hire an immigration attorney to get a written legal opinion regarding your arrest – it should cost between $150 and $250 and it is worth it to know for sure before you apply for citizenship, is it not?

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse
      http://www.immigrationworkvisa.com

  17. smiley
    July 14, 2012

    I and my wife married 2 years ago and I’m an immigrant with unconditional green card. She is so sick and crazy. She accused ne of hitting her , when she hit ne and I called 911, she freaks out and the ex. Said he is going to take the kids. I was in jail for a day with 5 months no contact, she track ne on my phone, Chase after me, broke glasses, come to work and u was fired because if her. She got depression, anxiety and bi polar and I tried many times but there is nothing I can. She accused me day in and day out of cheating. I can’t go out and come back and have a shower, she will accused me. She said u can’t have a lady friend, she swear to ny friends in Facebook. Called ne 100 calls or texts when ever I go out. Few weeks ago I packed all my stuffs that I will leave her, last week we got into a fight and she thrown my stuffs and went and leave with her mum. I been living in my car since then. My conditional green card will expire in march next year. She only talk to me, when ever she feels like it, other wise she wouldn’t. The domestic violence charges was dismissed and I got all police report the whole family lord about me to get convicted, except my wife who realised she did a mistake. I had a petty theft pending, I got a defence attorney working on it. I haven’t plead guilty or innocent yet, its been 5 months…. We were together at the store, but they only charged me. Our married is real is just that she is having kits if issues. What should I do? As long as she is living at her. Is going to be hard to make, because the mum is crazy too…

    • immigrationworkvisa
      July 18, 2012

      Dear Smiley (?!):

      Sorry to hear about your circumstances. I think maybe you meant that you have a “conditional” green card if it is going to expire in March 2013. Regrettably you are going to have to hire a reputable immigration attorney to help you with the paperwork for your 10 year green card. Please do not wait to hire an immigration attorney – you may have to prove you are divorced in order to get the 10 year green card, and in many states it takes at least 6 months to get divorced.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse
      http://www.immigrationworkvisa.com

  18. PATRICIA
    June 21, 2012

    CAN LEAVE AND RETURN TO THE UNITED STATES?

    I was arrested for theft, qualify for the memo agreement, I finished my class and my hours of community sevice and appear as dismiseed my case, my question is me Do I can travel to Mexico to return safely?

    • immigrationworkvisa
      June 22, 2012

      Dear Patricia:

      It depends. If an immigrant leaves the USA and wants to return, s/he must be admissible to do so (even if s/he has Lawful Permanent Resident status). With a crime of moral turpitude such as petty theft, the LPR MAY qualify for the Petty Theft Exception IF:

      1. s/he committed only 1 crime involving moral turpitude, ever; AND
      2. s/he was not sentenced to a term of imprisonment in excess of 6 months (regardless of how much time in jail they actually spent); AND
      3. the offense carries a maximum possible sentence of 1 year of less.

      The Petty Offense Exception is found at INA § 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I).

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

    • Anonymous
      July 18, 2012

      Yes they can long as one mexico is not your returning counrty on file and long as u have valid id and birth cert to entry to usa

    • Anonymous
      July 18, 2012

      when can u leave and return

  19. maria
    June 17, 2012

    So i have a question i made a stupid mistake of giving into temptacion and shoplifted but i also got accused of the things my friend stole and it was the first time i ever got in trouble with the law but with the whole new law that will let young adults who came here at a young age an is an illegal immigrant can get a work permission and not be dported can apply for but one of the requirments are dont have a crimenal record does that rule me out? I mean i payed the fine or i would of have gone to court and i never gotten in trouble again that was like 2 yrs ago.

    • Anonymous
      July 18, 2012

      everything is good

  20. Lamia
    April 30, 2012

    Hi. I had a petty theft misdemeanor pc 484/490.5 back in 2007 .im a green card holder since 2005 .i had probation & fine no jail time .my lawyer told me to apply for citizenship now I m afraid that they will deport me even he said that my case itd not deportabl I need a second opinion plz

    • immigrationworkvisa
      May 2, 2012

      Dear Lamia:

      You are wise to be cautious. It is important to get a “legal opinion” from an immigration attorney. You did not mention whether your attorney is a criminal attorney or an immigration attorney.

      If you have not already, you need to send (mail, fax or scan) your petty theft conviction documents to an immigration attorney and ask the immigration attorney to review them and give you a “written legal opinion” on whether your citizenship should be approved or denied (possibly putting your green card at risk).

      I will give you a recent example. A green card holder called me to tell me she had been convicted of Petty Theft for stealing $18 of clothes from Penny’s in 2008. She was off probation and never had other criminal problems. However, upon examining her conviction paperwork, we found that because she was given a 12 month suspended jail sentence (suspended means she didn’t have to actually go to jail), immigration authorities could consider her convicted of an “aggravated felony” — even though her petty theft court papers clearly said her Petty Theft was only a “Misdemeanor.”

      Unfortunately she had already applied for citizenship and her citizenship was denied and now she is facing deportation – all because she applied for citizenship when she shouldn’t have.

      IMPORTANT TIP: Please don’t try to save money getting a generalized legal opinion about your petty theft for free using a blog article – please get an individualized legal opinion from an immigration attorney who has reviewed YOUR PETTY THEFT PAPERWORK before filing your citizenship application. No immigration attorney can give you a legal opinion without reviewing YOUR PETTY THEFT PAPERWORK because everyone’s petty theft paperwork is different.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  21. van lee
    March 15, 2012

    Yesterday i was caught for petty theft worth $ 180 in California. My green card is in the process & court case is due in this month, march 20. My questions are :
    What should I do & how is it going to affect my Green card (we r done with our finger printing already)

    • immigrationworkvisa
      March 15, 2012

      Dear Van Lee:

      So sorry to hear that this happened. Please hire an immigration in your city immediately so that they can go with you to your green card interview. The fee for the attorney should be $500 – $750 but they will probably not take payments. The officers treat you much better in this circumstance if an attorney is in the room and knows what documents to bring and what to say.

      Regards, Danielle Nelisse

  22. Anonymous
    February 22, 2012

    Hello,
    I was cited for the same thing PC 488 and got amended to PC484(a) on 2005. i was fingerprinted and paid ~$200 fine by the store. however i got DA MOT DISM.
    i am due to apply for citizenship now and would like your opinion if i should reply mention this on my citizenship application?

    Thank you so much in advance

    • immigrationworkvisa
      February 29, 2012

      Dear Anonymous:

      Yes, absolutely mention the petty theft. Don’t even think about leaving your petty theft experience out. The N400 specifically asks: “have you EVER been arrested, cited or detained by any law enforcement officer for any reason? have you ever been charged with committing any crime or offense?”

      Given your history, how could you possibly answer “no” to these questions? Applicants with a petty theft in their background are allowed to be USA citizens. Applicants who lie on the N400 are not. The 2005 petty theft will most likely show up when they do the background check and then you could be denied citizenship for lying if you do not tell them about it first.

      If you are nervous about it, hire an immigration attorney (they usually charge $500) to go to the citizenship interview with you – the peace of mind will be well worth it.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

    • Anonymous
      July 18, 2012

      do what is need to come back

  23. Anonymous
    February 5, 2012

    hello,
    i am so embarrassed to share this. last year i was at the wrong place and at the wrong time with a person I know she got caught shopligting therefore i got a ticket too. i had to pay a fine to go court. later on i shared this with my mom she got furious and literally treated me like a criminal. regardless i got really upset and went ahead by myself and comitted the same horrible mistake. so now i got 2 charges of pethy theft.
    I tried to move on and got therapy, found a new very good job, started school, and my job requieres travel, i went to Cabo since my boss has a property in Mexico, first time i came in the u.s. they just talked to me about it. and of course i told them i was sorry, and that was part of my past. the second time i came in they pulled me aside and took my residence card, and passport.
    I am extremely anxious to know what can happen? they told me i have to go to an inmigration judge, i have not received any citation over the mail.
    Iam trying to calm down. and think positive, since i am truly not a criminal, i just made two stupid mistakes.
    for the second charge i got 45 days jail time. wich turned out to be like 15 mins, and 180 dollars fine.
    i did everything already.
    please can you give me some advice on what to do?
    for the moment im trying to keep working, going to school, im going to therapy for personal issues, since my husband is deployed in Japan he is in the military.
    All of this No excuse was caused and consequence of a very unstable year, i lost my baby and i think what my mom told me just trigger somehow my actions to get attention.

    Thank you.

    • immigrationworkvisa
      February 14, 2012

      Dear Anonymous:

      You are going to have to hire an Immigration Attorney where you live to represent you in Immigration Court. Some Immigration Attorneys specialize in deportation cases and it is good to start interviewing attorneys even though the court hearing has not been scheduled yet. Sometimes the military provides the Immigration Attorneys for you. Sorry for your predicament. There are special rules for spouses of military personnel, so ask the immigration attorneys you are interviewing if they know about “prosecutorial discretion” and “parole in place.” Good luck.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  24. Babu
    September 27, 2011

    I sent my application for conditional removal on 6 th April. I got letter for finger prints. I completed that in May, 2011. Ho wmuch time they take to send the l approval letter or call for interview

    • immigrationworkvisa
      September 29, 2011

      Dear Babu:

      In general, my clients get a response about their I-751 Petition between 3 and 12 months after the fingerprints.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  25. alice
    September 9, 2011

    Hi,
    First, I would like to apologize for my completely unethical and horrible actions. I was caught shoplifting in the state of California under penal code 484pc. I do not know what was going through my head when I did this. I was cited and released with a court date. Fortunately, I hired an criminal attorney the day after the incident as I was extremely scared and concerned. Luckily, my attorney has informed me that the case will be dismissed as 6 months after I enter a pre-diversion program, 20 hours of community service, and a “guilty” plead. Now I am still concerned as I am a green card holder and a full time student at UC Davis and I do not want to jeopardize neither one of these. Originally, I was eligible to apply for citizenship about 3 years ago as I was granted my green card in 2004 but since I could not afford it I decided to wait and this past June made the terrible mistake to get arrested for petty theft. I have been reading many online articles that state that even if a criminal case gets dismissed and there will be no conviction it will still come up as a conviction in “immigration law” as I will plead “guilty” and therefore will be denied citizenship. Can this truly happen? Is there a way to still become a citizen when filing for citizenship and should I hire an immigration lawyer? I am really scared and this is by the way my first and last criminal offense, there no other record prior to this.
    Thank you in advance!

    • immigrationworkvisa
      September 12, 2011

      Dear Alice:

      I’m sorry that this happened to you. A California petty theft is normally excused for both green card holders and citizenship applicants, but please have an immigration attorney review your criminal court documents before filing the N400.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

    • Ivan
      June 26, 2012

      Hi Alice! I am in the same situation as you. and for what I can see same year. Can you please share what was the outcome? I have 2 years probation after I had my plea and only one charge…484pc. I am will be free of probation after October. and I really want to apply for my citizenship.
      Can you share the outcome? thanks

    • Anonymous
      July 18, 2012

      must be in woodland ucdavis good school what type of help can i give but what i read and dnt be scrared everything works out demarco

  26. Sofia
    May 2, 2011

    I also made thia terrible mistake but in my case it happened a couple of weeks ago and my applications for my residency are still in progress…. I havent been to court yet since they havent sent me a date but could this keep me from recieving my green card / work permit? Please help me… It was a terrible mistake and now all my efforts for a better future are in jeopardy

    • immigrationworkvisa
      May 5, 2011

      Dear Sofia:

      Yes, if you do not handle your criminal case correctly, you could have a problem with your green card/work permit.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  27. kate
    February 21, 2011

    please help me understand in my case.
    I made a terrible mistake . im stolen some clothes at kohls store and amout 100$.They call police to push me on jail but my husband maid bond me out . Then now i dont know what going to me in the further. i may have show up to court and probation .do you know how much cost for law and court in missouri … thank so much

    • immigrationworkvisa
      March 3, 2011

      Dear Kate:

      You will need to hire two types of attorneys right away to protect yourself: an immigration attorney and a criminal defense attorney. Sorry, I don’t know any attorneys personally in Missouri.

      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

  28. Kwan
    November 22, 2010

    I made a terrible mistake and I am experiencing the worst time in my life. I am so embarrassed to say that I was petty theft on 11/14/10 and I have criminal attorneys already will go to the court on 11/22/10 but the problem was my 2 year green card from marriage will expired on 12/3/10 my husband told me that they will send my mail to let us know when we have to go to interview we didn’t hire a lawyer since I have a problem with petty theft he call his friend and find out that we have to file from I-751 by our self and I didn’t print out all paper work and what they need but the problem is they need me to send them a criminal history and I don’t know what to do because of my criminal attorneys try to help me not to put petty theft in my record and I don’t know yet. I read all information if I let my green card expired they will be cancel my green card my question is I should send them a coppy of my record or I don’t need to
    Please help me
    Thank you so much
    I’m in Van Nuys CA

    • immigrationworkvisa
      November 29, 2010

      Dear Kwan,

      First of all, many foreign nationals have had a petty theft issue and still keep their green card, as well as get citizenship later on. Please do not be upset – it looks like you need an immigration attorney to help you, though.

      I really try to help people with their issues so that they don’t have to hire an immigration attorney, but you really need to hire one in order to keep your green card. Because it expires on 12/3/2010, please retain the services of an immigration attorney right away before you make any mistakes on the I-751 petition. And yes, you will need to disclose the petty theft crime because it will show up when you provide your fingerprints for the new green card anyway, and you don’t want to commit fraud with immigration officials by hiding things.
      Kind regards, Danielle Nelisse

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