Can You Be Deported if You are Married to an American Citizen?

Posted by in Immigrants | Updated on November 15, 2022
At a Glance: 10% of people deported from the U.S. every year are lawful permanent residents. You must meet 4 criteria to qualify for a green card. If you don’t, you may be deported.

Getting a green card through marrying a U.S. citizen can give you some sense of security and permanence. You can legally work and live in the U.S. An important issue to understand, however, is can you be deported if you are married to an American citizen? As a matter of fact, you can. 

Let’s take a look at when or why you may get deported if you married a U.S. citizen. 

Can Green Card Marriage Citizens be Deported?

Can you be deported if you are married to an American citizen? The answer is yes, you can. About 10% of all the people who get deported from the U.S. every year are lawful permanent residents

You can actually be deported for several reasons. Firstly, you must meet all the criteria to get a green card. If you don’t, you will be deported. Secondly, there are certain actions or crimes that could lead to deportation even if you are married to an American citizen, and you have a valid green card. 

Let’s take a look in more detail.

4 Criteria to Get a Green Card

Just because you’ve married a U.S. citizen doesn’t mean you automatically get a green card, or you are now safely in the U.S. You still have to meet these 4 criteria to qualify for a green card. If you don’t, you may be deported from the U.S. Marriage itself isn’t a guarantee. 

1. Lawful Entry

Having lawfully entered the U.S. is one of the requirements for a green card through marriage. If you entered the U.S. by unlawful means, you would not be able to get a green card unless you file a 601A waiver. If this is the case, it’s best to consult with an immigration attorney to plan your next steps. 

2. Real Marriage

If you are applying for a citizenship marriage, your marriage will come under the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) scrutiny. You need to prove your marriage is real or “bona fide”. To establish this, you might have to go through a few rounds of questioning. You must be willing to have the USCIS inspect every detail of your marriage life. 

3. Medical Exam

As is required in all green card applications, you will have to pass a green card medical exam before the USCIS issues you a green card through marriage. You can read here to see how to prepare for your green card medical exam.

4. Proof of Income

The USCIS doesn’t want immigrants to become a public charge or be a burden on U.S. taxpayers. For this reason, you must prove that you have a minimum level of income so that you can satisfy an “affidavit of support“.

Reasons You Can Get Deported When You Are Married to a U.S. Citizen

Even if you’ve met all the qualification criteria for a green card we’ve listed above, you can still get deported for committing certain crimes or offenses. Even if these are minor, nonviolent crimes. The crimes that can lead to deportation are called “deportable offenses“. 

The USCIS has an extensive list of deportable offenses. We’ll summarize some of the most common ones below. If you are concerned that you might have committed a deportable offense, make sure you seek the advice of a qualified immigration attorney. 

Here are some of the offenses that can lead to you being deported from the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident.

Aggravated Felony

Aggravated felonies fall under federal law but can be prosecuted under state law. These crimes range from misdemeanors to felonies. If you’ve committed any of these crimes, it will be up to the immigration authorities to determine whether it constitutes a deportable offense. 

Aggravated Felonies List

The following crimes are deemed aggravated felonies:

  • drug trafficking
  • rape
  • murder
  • racketeering
  • kidnapping
  • child pornography
  • spying, treason, or sabotage
  • perjury with a sentence of at least one year
  • trafficking firearms or other destructive devices
  • sexually abusing a minor (including statutory rape)
  • alien smuggling
  • money laundering of $10,000 or more
  • fraud or tax evasion involving more than $10,000
  • theft or violent crime with at least a one year sentence
  • human trafficking or running a prostitution business
  • commercial bribery, counterfeiting, forgery
  • trafficking in vehicles
  • obstruction of justice, perjury, or bribery of a witness, if the term of imprisonment was at least one year, and
  • failure to appear in court on a felony charge for which a sentence of two years in prison may be imposed.

Controlled Substances

Controlled substances are for crimes involving drugs. If you are convicted of any drug crimes after being admitted to the U.S., it could lead to deportation. You could also be inadmissible to the U.S. in the future. Drug crimes include drug possession but do not include “a single offense involving possession for one’s own use of 30 grams or less of marijuana“. If you are a drug abuser or a drug addict, the Immigration and Nationality Act stipulates that you are also deportable.

Crimes of Moral Turpitude

Moral turpitude refers to “an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community”. This is quite vague, and it isn’t entirely clear what crimes could fall under this category. This is up to the U.S. courts. 

Crimes of Moral Turpitude List

The following offenses have, however, been held to be crimes of moral turpitude in the past:

  • rape
  • robbery
  • theft
  • fraud
  • mayhem
  • murder
  • incest
  • animal fighting
  • spousal abuse
  • kidnapping
  • child abuse
  • aggravated assault
  • voluntary manslaughter
  • some cases of involuntary manslaughter
  • conspiracy, or
  • acting as an accessory to a crime if it is a crime of moral turpitude.

Failure to Meet Conditions

If you fail to meet the conditions of your conditional permanent residency, you won’t receive your permanent green card and will be deported. 

You would be a conditional permanent resident if you were granted a temporary two-year green card after you married a U.S. citizen. If you received the two-year conditional permanent residency from your marriage, you could be deported if your marriage terminates before the two years are over or if it turns out your marriage was fraudulent.

Firearm Crimes

These crimes relate to guns. Crimes and offenses relating to firearms can be grounds for deportation. These crimes include violations for possessing, selling, or carrying firearms unlawfully.


Any form of fraud could be a deportable offense. Most specifically, fraud relating to the marriage that granted you your conditional permanent residence. Having a fraudulent marriage or having your marriage annulled or terminated before being granted permanent residence could lead to deportation.

Inadmissible at the Border

Every time you leave the U.S., you will be inspected at the border before you will be able to return. If the border agent determines you are inadmissible, you won’t be allowed to re-enter the U.S. You will, for example, be inadmissible if you have been outside the U.S. borders for more than 180 days without advance parole.


This would be where you help someone enter the U.S. illegally, i.e., smuggling them in.

Read More

Final Thoughts

So, can you be deported if you are married to an American citizen? Yes, you can. But you can only be deported in very specific circumstances. If you are concerned about possibly having committed a deportable offense or if you might not have met one of the 4 eligibility criteria we list above, speak to an immigration attorney. They will be able to advise you on how big your risk is and what you can do about it.

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