Understanding the 212(c) Waiver for Aggravated Felony: A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding the 212(c) Waiver for Aggravated Felony: A Comprehensive Guide

Introduction: Navigating the Complexities of Immigration Law

Navigating immigration law can be a daunting task, especially when facing issues related to aggravated felony charges. One of the critical tools available to individuals in such situations is the 212(c) waiver. Understanding the nuances of this waiver is crucial for anyone seeking relief from deportation or inadmissibility due to a past criminal conviction.

What is the 212(c) Waiver?

The 212(c) waiver is a provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act that allows certain lawful permanent residents to apply for relief from deportation or removal proceedings, despite being convicted of an aggravated felony.

Eligibility Criteria for the 212(c) Waiver

To be eligible for a 212(c) waiver, an individual must meet specific criteria, including:

  • Lawful Permanent Resident Status: The applicant must be a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
  • Continuous Residence: The applicant must have continuously resided in the U.S. for a specified period, typically seven to ten years.
  • Good Moral Character: The applicant must demonstrate good moral character and rehabilitation since the conviction.
Understanding Aggravated Felony

An aggravated felony is a term used in immigration law to describe certain serious offenses that can lead to severe immigration consequences, including deportation. Examples of aggravated felonies include murder, drug trafficking, and certain types of theft offenses.

The Evolution of the 212(c) Waiver

The 212(c) waiver has undergone significant changes over the years, primarily due to legislative reforms and court rulings. Understanding the historical context of these changes can provide valuable insights into the current landscape of immigration law.

Pre-1996: Broad Application of the 212(c) Waiver

Before the enactment of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) in 1996, the 212(c) waiver was widely available to lawful permanent residents facing deportation due to criminal convictions.

Post-1996: Restrictions on Relief

The passage of the IIRIRA introduced significant restrictions on eligibility for the 212(c) waiver. Under the new law, individuals convicted of certain aggravated felonies were deemed ineligible for relief under this provision.

Landmark Case: St. Cyr v. INS

The Supreme Court’s decision in St. Cyr v. INS in 2001 had a profound impact on the application of the 212(c) waiver. The Court held that lawful permanent residents who entered into plea agreements before the enactment of the IIRIRA could still seek relief under the 212(c) waiver, despite the statutory changes.

Applying for a 212(c) Waiver: Procedure and Considerations

Applying for a 212(c) waiver requires careful consideration of various factors, including the specific circumstances of the individual’s case and the current legal landscape. Working with an experienced immigration attorney is essential to navigate the complexities of the application process.

Gathering Documentation

To support a 212(c) waiver application, the applicant must gather relevant documentation, including:

  • Certified copies of court records related to the criminal conviction
  • Evidence of rehabilitation and good moral character
  • Affidavits from family members, employers, or community members attesting to the applicant’s positive contributions

Presenting a Strong Case

Presenting a compelling case for a 212(c) waiver involves demonstrating the applicant’s ties to the United States, rehabilitation efforts, and the adverse consequences of deportation on themselves and their families.

Conclusion: Navigating the Path to Relief

In conclusion, the 212(c) waiver serves as a vital tool for lawful permanent residents facing deportation or inadmissibility due to past criminal convictions. Understanding the eligibility criteria, procedural requirements, and historical evolution of this waiver is essential for anyone seeking relief under this provision.


  1. **Is a 212(c) waiver available to individuals with multiple criminal convictions?
    • In some cases, individuals with multiple convictions may still be eligible for a 212(c) waiver, depending on the nature and severity of the offenses.
  2. **Can a 212(c) waiver be revoked once granted?
    • While rare, a 212(c) waiver can be revoked if the individual violates the terms of their release or commits subsequent criminal offenses.
  3. **How long does it take to process a 212(c) waiver application?
    • The processing time for a 212(c) waiver application can vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the case and the workload of the immigration authorities.
  4. **Are there any alternatives to the 212(c) waiver for individuals facing deportation?
    • Yes, there are alternative forms of relief available, such as cancellation of removal or adjustment of status, depending on the individual’s circumstances.
  5. **Can I apply for a 212(c) waiver if I am currently in removal proceedings?
    • Yes, individuals in removal proceedings can still apply for a 212(c) waiver, but they must meet the eligibility criteria and present a strong case for relief.


Understanding the 212(c) Waiver for Aggravated Felony: A Comprehensive Guide