Immigration Consequences of DV Offenses: Crimes of Domestic Violence

A noncitizen can lose status—that is, the right to be in the U.S.—and be forced to leave if he or she comes within a ground of deportability. In general, the grounds of deportability apply to noncitizens who have been lawfully “admitted.” This includes both lawful permanent residents (“green card” holders) and holders of temporary, nonimmigrant visas.

There are several criminal grounds of deportability in the federal immigration statutes, provided in Title 8, Section 1227 of the United States Code. One of these grounds is conviction of a crime of domestic violence. In order to be a crime of domestic violence under federal immigration law, the offense must meet the federal definition of a “crime of violence” under 18 U.S.C. 16 and must also be against a person in a domestic relationship with the defendant. This provision of the statute also includes deportation for crimes of child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment, but discussion of those grounds is outside the scope of this post.

This post is the first in a two-part series and examines immigration consequences of convictions of offenses involving domestic violence under North Carolina law. It is not intended to be a comprehensive analysis of immigration law; rather, it assesses the immigration consequences of selected North Carolina offenses and only within the scope of the domestic violence ground of deportability.

Domestic relationship and crimes of violence

Any noncitizen who at any time after admission is convicted of a crime of domestic violence is deportable. For purposes of this provision, the term “crime of domestic violence” means any crime of violence against a person committed by

  • a current or former spouse of the person,
  • an individual with whom the person shares a child in common,
  • an individual who is cohabiting with or has cohabited with the person as a spouse,
  • an individual similarly situated to a spouse of the person under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction where the offense occurs, or
  • any other individual against a person who is protected from that individual’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the United States or any State, Indian tribal government, or unit of local government.

8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(E)(i). For immigration purposes, a crime of violence is defined under 18 U.S.C. 16(a). This provision states that a crime of violence is “an offense that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another.” Section 16(b) of this statute provides that a felony offense is a crime of violence if by its nature it involves a substantial risk that force could be used. However, the Supreme Court held in Sessions v. Dimaya, 584 U.S. ___, 138 S. Ct. 1204 (2018), that 18 U.S.C. 16(b) is unconstitutionally vague and can no longer be used.

North Carolina domestic violence offenses

There are several North Carolina offenses that may be considered crimes of domestic violence under state law if committed against a qualifying victim. North Carolina has various statutes that identify crimes as domestic violence. For example, G.S. 15A-534.1 governs pretrial release for crimes that it identifies as domestic violence crimes. However, these statutes do not determine whether a state offense is a “crime of violence” as defined by federal immigration law and a deportable crime of domestic violence.

AWDW and felony assaults

Many of the offenses leading to a domestic violence conviction under state law may render a noncitizen deportable. For example, assault with a deadly weapon under G.S. 14-33(c)(1) and felony assaults are considered crimes of violence under federal law. See Hernandez-Zavala v. Lynch, 806 F.3d 259 (4th Cir. 2015); Farah v. U.S. Attorney Gen., 12 F.4th 1312 (11th Cir. 2021). When committed against a person with whom the defendant has a domestic relationship under federal law, convictions for those offenses will render the defendant deportable on domestic violence grounds.

Misdemeanor assaults

Some offenses that might be considered domestic violence offenses under North Carolina’s pretrial release or other laws are not considered crimes of violence under federal immigration law. For example, assault on a female under G.S. 14-33(c)(2) is a domestic violence offense for purposes of pretrial release if committed against a qualifying victim. Under Fourth Circuit law, assault on a female does not satisfy the “crime of violence” definition. See United States v. Vinson, 805 F.3d 120 (4th Cir. 2015). The Vinson court reasoned that the phrase “use of physical force” in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(33) means the intentional use of physical force. The court further reasoned that North Carolina allows assault convictions that can be based on “culpable negligence” rather than intent, and consequently North Carolina assault convictions do not require, “as an element,” the “use of physical force.” The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in an unpublished case has likewise found that assault on a female is not a crime of domestic violence for immigration purposes since a showing of “force and violence” is not required. See Eduardo Gomez Juardo, A090 764 102 (BIA Mar. 28, 2014).

These decisions also extend to simple assault since the offense does not require either a showing of intent or infliction of bodily injury. Accordingly, a noncitizen will not be subject to deportation on the domestic ground of deportability for a conviction of simple assault or assault on a female.

Misdemeanor crime of domestic violence

A conviction of North Carolina’s new misdemeanor crime of domestic violence under G.S. 14-32.5 will subject a person to deportation. I mentioned in an earlier blog post that the likely purpose of this statute was to track the language of federal statutes to count for purposes of the federal gun disqualification. Because the statute’s language tracks that of the federal definition of “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence”  under 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(33)(A)(ii) and of “crime of violence” under 18 U.S.C. 16(a), the offense will also count for purposes of deportation.


Often, crimes might trigger other grounds of deportability even if they don’t meet the domestic violence ground. For example, felony assaults could trigger deportability as crimes of moral turpitude or as aggravated felonies under certain circumstances. This post serves as an introductory navigation of immigration consequences of selected North Carolina offenses within the scope of the domestic violence ground of deportability. Those with specific questions about cases should consult with an immigration expert. In the next part of this series, I will discuss the “stalking” and “violation of a protective order” grounds of deportability.