If you have been convicted of a serious crime, or if you are otherwise removable from the U.S., you may be placed in removal proceedings in immigration court even if you have a green card. One of the most common forms of immigration relief that a green card holder may seek is known as cancellation of removal. This is a type of “second chance” that is available only once. You cannot ask for cancellation of removal if you have received it previously while holding any type of immigration status, or if you previously received a waiver under Section 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Cancellation allows you to keep your green card even though you are technically removable. It is also available to a limited number of foreign nationals who do not have green cards. Read more here about applying for cancellation of removal if you do not have a green card.
To get cancellation of removal, you must meet certain requirements. First, you must have held legal permanent resident status for at least five years before applying for cancellation, and you must not have an aggravated felony conviction on your record. Also, you must have continuously resided in the U.S. for at least seven years after you were admitted. (Read more below about how the “stop-time rule” may affect this requirement.) Even if you meet these threshold requirements, the judge still has the discretion to determine whether you deserve to stay in the U.S.
The five-year requirement is fairly straightforward. As long as you have held a green card for five years before your application, you will meet this requirement unless you got the green card fraudulently. However, the seven-year continuous residence requirement is more complicated. The seven-year period ends under the stop-time rule when a foreign national receives a Notice to Appear in immigration proceedings, or when they commit certain types of crimes. These crimes are listed in Section 212(a)(2) and Section 237(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. For the most part, these are crimes involving moral turpitude, as well as some drug crimes and “security offenses.” You will not be eligible for cancellation of removal if you have not spent seven continuous years in the U.S. prior to committing one of these crimes.
You will be barred from cancellation if you have been convicted of an aggravated felony. These crimes cover a wide range. Some obvious examples include murder, rape, drug trafficking, and sexual offenses involving minors. Other aggravated felonies are defined more technically, such as violent crimes or theft crimes that resulted in a sentence of at least one year in prison, even if the foreign national did not actually serve a year. Fraud can be an aggravated felony if it involved at least a certain amount of money. Attempting to commit a crime defined as an aggravated felony is considered an aggravated felony, even if you did not complete the crime.
It is important to remember that cancellation of removal involves a significant amount of discretion by the immigration judge. You will want to present compelling evidence in the proceedings that tells a sympathetic story about your life and your connections to the U.S. Read more here about putting together an application for cancellation of removal.