The "categorical approach" is an analysis courts undertake to determine if a noncitizen's criminal (state) conviction triggers grounds for removal under the federal immigration statutes. "A court does not consider the facts of an individual’s crime as he actually committed it. Instead, a court asks only whether an individual’s crime of conviction necessarily—or categorically—triggers a particular consequence under federal law." (see Pareida v. United States).
According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), there are three steps to the categorical approach: