The article is based on Rakesh’s observations after living in US for 14 years. His goal in this article is to caution fellow internationals to live safely and enjoy stay in US without getting into any legal issues. Thank you Rakesh ! ( If you have an experience to share or write, email me )
Below are few things that in my opinion are very important and every non-immigrant and even green card holders must keep in their mind .
If you are NON immigrant ( F1, H1, L1 , B1 etc ) or Green Card holder
Make sure to “Never” Never ” Never “ get arrested for breaking any law in US. A non-immigrant arrested for committing crimes and breaking local laws can be subject to deportation. Local law enforcement agencies in most states are now getting trained by ICE under some law passed in 2004 by Bush admin.
Some common reasons — Non immigrants and legal immigrants have been arrested and deported
- Stalking , sex , exchanging adult graphic pictures & soliciting sexual favour from an minor over internet chat ( usually cop poses as minor ) . NBC –catch a predator is a show where few Indians showed up thinking they were meeting minor girl at her house. They were arrested, sent to prison and subsequently deported
- Soliciting a prostitute
- Dealing with drugs. Also buying and consuming illegal drugs like pot is a crime in most states
- Reckless driving thus causing accident and bodily injury to others ( If you injure or kill a child , you might as well forget America ). Driving without valid license or failure to carry proof of insurance or proper car registration ( in some states you get a ticket while in some counties they can arrest you depending on whim /mood of Cop ). You can get arrested for driving over 100 mph on highways in state like GA ( it falls under reckless driving and putting others at risk )
- Lying under Oath. Putting immigrant status as US citizen ( this applies to green card holders too ) when filling out any official form or I-9 IRS form or any federal Tax forms. Claiming US citizenship when you are a Non-immigrant (or claiming immigrant benefits) or GC holder, is a serious offence. A big No No!!!!
- Domestic abuse / violence and assaults. Lewd behaviour or sex with minors under 18 (there is zero tolerance for this type of crime. Best thing is to avoid being friends with anybody under 18, if they are not related to you )
- Failing to state obvious material FACTS in immigration forms like marital status, number of kids, employment history , addresses , tax returns, arrest records etc.
- Shop lifting and getting arrested
- Unauthorized employment.
- Making serious criminal threats over internet. They can track you down from your IP or video camera recordings if you are using public computer in library or university. Also you can be tracked if you are behind anonymous proxy server as IP will leave log trail. So don’t be complacent thinking that you can hide behind computers.
- DUI (driving under influence of alcohol, prescription med , or illegal drugs ) will “definitely” get you arrested . Don’t do it. Leave your car at bar or party place and take a Cab home or request a ride from sober friend.
- Never get into physical fight (even with your good Indian friend or Desi roomies ) . Never put your hand on anybody or make verbal threats. If you are angry mad at somebody, feel free to curse/vent at them. But don’t ever touch them. Things can quickly escalate and somebody can get hurt or have bruises if you grab them during fight /argument. When cops get called, they will take you to jail to diffuse the situation!!! So try to remember Mahatma Gandhi or God or your parents when you get angry and feel that you are being insulted humiliated by others . At the end of day nobody has ever won an argument 🙂 Ability to forgive is a divine human quality.
- Non-Immigrants are generally not allowed to fire or carry firearms ( guns ) under federal law, unless you have a hunting license and have full paperwork, and can be subject to arrest and deportation. Be careful and do not carry any weapons illegally even for recreation. Read federal govt website : Non-immigrant Firearms rules in US
Always Remember that you are NON immigrant . Apart from some basic civil rights ( like rental housing , access to public places, service to consumer etc ) and anti -discrimination rights , You have very few legal rights when compared to united states citizens. You are lawfully admitted ” Alien ” so don’t break any laws that will jeopardise your good standing “non -immigrant alien ” status . Keep yourself informed and don’t fall through cracks . Some of these things also applies to GC holders. First thing they ask you in GC interview is ” Have you ever been arrested ” ? Also GC holders can be denied Citizenship if they have arrest record or hide that fact in citizenship application or fail to file tax returns.
I have noticed over past 14 yeas that lots of students, H1Bs, Green card holders develop a carefree, complacent attitude after living in US for some time. American laws are very strict and there can be serious legal consequences for not following those laws. “Ignorance of law is not an Excuse.” In post 9-11 world , level of tolerance has decreased and they are even less forgiving more than ever.
In short, keep Your RECORD CLEAN. stay AWAY FROM JAIL or Prison, Follow the LAW. America is a Nation of LAW. What have been your experiences ? Share it.
About Author : Rakesh has lived in US for 14 years and have seen so many things that internationals overlook and end up into complicated situations dealing with law.