Did Conor McGregor’s Ongoing Legal Issues Prompt His Abrupt Retirement From MMA?

With Conor McGregor’s quickly tweeted announcement that he is going to retire from the MMA, announced so soon after his latest legal woes, leaving people to speculate if the two events are related.

McGregor has been in the news over the past 12 months for altercations in and around his big fights in the U.S. Last year it was an incident in which he assaulted a bus, injuring several people at New York’s Barclays Center, right before a UFC event. In that case, McGregor was charged with three counts of assault and one count of criminal mischief. This past month, McGregor once again made headlines, this time in Florida, with a “phone smashing” incident.

The former UFC dual weight champion has been charged by police with strong arm robbery and criminal mischief. The charges can carry up to 15 years and five years in jail, respectively.

While the 2018 incident resulted in a deal with no immigration consequences, here is how this latest event could affect his future travel plans in the United States:

Felonies have serious immigration consequences for green card holders

Any time you have a criminal conviction it can impact your ability to visit or stay in the United States. For those who are applying for a green card, previous arrests or convictions can be tough obstacles. That is the chief reason McGregor’s lawyers negotiated the plea of no contest to disorderly conduct in New York.

Temporary visa holders typically face less impact for criminal charges

McGregor is likely in the United States under a P Visa (temporary employment visa granted to athletes), or an O Visa (“extraordinary ability”). These are shorter term visas, like J1 Cultural Exchange Student Visa, and H1B Work Visa, and have an option for the application of a 212(d)(3) waiver to get back into the country due to legal troubles.

What is a 212(d)(3) Waiver?

The 212(d)(3) waiver, also known as a Hranka Waiver, is a discretionary waiver that allows a foreign national to be admitted to the U.S. despite being inadmissible based on criminal convictions, fraudulent acts, or other immigration violations.  This waiver was based on a 1978 case of a young woman who wanted to come and visit her family in the US, despite having previously been deported due to prostitution. While this waiver can be quite forgiving, its discretionary nature means that it’s up to the generosity of  the immigration authorities, whether or not to grant the waiver.

Who can apply for the 212(d)(3) Hranka Waiver?

Anyone who has been previously barred from the US, and is looking for a non immigrant (not permanent) visit to the country.

It is up to the U.S. consulate whether they let you back in or not.

Why is this important? While immigration authorities can deny the waiver for almost any reason, they can just as easily approve a Hranka waiver application on discretionary grounds. Foreign nationals burdened with an inadmissibility bar still have a chance to make an argument to immigration officials.

What are the qualifications for winning a 212(d)(3) Waiver?

While the 212(d)(3) Waiver is forgiving, an applicant must show that he does not pose a risk of harm to U.S. society. Also, the applicant generally must prove that any prior criminal or immigration violations are not of a serious nature (although there are a handful of waivers that were granted, despite serious crimes).

There are three legal factors that must be weighed by immigration authorities in deciding whether to grant the waiver:

1. the risk of harm to society if a waiver applicant is admitted to the U.S.

2. the seriousness of an applicant’s prior criminal or immigration violations, if any, and

3. the nature of the applicant’s reason for wishing to enter the U.S.

How does this look for McGregor’s future in the United States?

Depending on McGregor’s prospective Florida plea deal, this 2019 altercation could hurt his visa prospects in the future (not to mention any green card applications).  Conor needs to maintain a cautious approach to his behavior — like any reasonable person — no matter how many high profile fights he has or how much money he earns.

Petitions for professional visas and green cards are complex.

Waivers create even more complications.

Not everyone is Conor McGregor, who is able to afford lawyers he needs to keep himself out of this kind of legal trouble.

Even he must make sure that this Florida altercation is his last fight outside the Octagon or boxing ring, and maybe quitting the MMA was the way to do just that.

Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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