Single Scheme of Criminal Misconduct (8/4/17)

Today’s FYI Friday concerns crimes involving moral turpitude (“CIMTs”). As you know, immigration law requires applicants for naturalization to have “good moral character” for the five-year period preceding the date they apply for naturalization. If an applicant has been convicted of a CIMT within the previous five years, the applicant is generally statutorily precluded from proving good moral character. However, an applicant who has a single CIMT outside of the statutory, five-year period is not automatically barred from proving good moral character.


Despite this, a provision of the INA makes an applicant who, at any time after admission to the US, is convicted of 2 or more CIMTs deportable, unless the crimes arise out of a “single scheme of criminal misconduct.” Although there is no statutory definition of a “single scheme,” courts have interpreted this to mean “acts, which although separate crimes in and of themselves, were performed in furtherance of a single criminal episode, such as . . . where two crimes flow from and are the natural consequence of a single act of criminal misconduct.” So, even if an applicant has been convicted of 2 CIMTs, if they arise out of a single act of misconduct, he or she is not deportable.


Obviously, an applicant in this situation should be cautioned about the risks involved in applying for naturalization. But, assuming no other issues, an applicant with two CIMTs may still be able to naturalize if the crimes arose from a single scheme of misconduct.