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Immigration News

2012,January,06 10:23:02

Beware: Serious Immigration Consequences of Shoplifting

For people not accustomed to the open displays of merchandise typical in the U.S. and the opportunity to pick up a few small items could prove tempting. Many newcomers to this country do not realize that seemingly minor crimes can have very serious immigration consequences. Caution dictates that one control any urge to commit a \"minor\" crime like shoplifting. The cost of even a small item can become very expensive for the offender when paying the criminal attorney, the immigration law attorney, possibly losing a good job, losing green card eligibility, having the green card revoked, or losing eligibility to apply for U.S. citizenship -- all based on this \"small\" crime.

We have been told that shoplifting is more likely to be prosecuted in the U.S. than in many other countries. For this reason, those from abroad may think that if they are caught with merchandise they did not pay for, they just have to return it and the whole incident will be forgotten. In the U.S., however, it is common for the store security guard or manager to call the police. It is quite common for shop owners to even post notices in their windows or dressing rooms: \"Shoplifters will be Prosecuted.\" Take these warnings seriously.

Under state laws, shoplifting is considered a misdemeanor (often called petty theft) if the value of the merchandise is less than a certain amount, usually $300 or $500. (Note that criminal laws vary from state to state.) A higher amount is considered a felony, often known as grand theft or grand larceny. \"Petty theft\" may sound minor, especially if it involves merchandise of very low value, but the consequences can be major. The type of consequence depends on whether the issue arises in connection with the application for a nonimmigrant visa or for permanent status; a removal (deportation) proceeding; or a naturalization (citizenship) application.

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