What Convictions Stop You Entering America

What Convictions Stop You Entering America

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A criminal record can make a person ineligible for entry into the United States. That implies the individual is inadmissible to get either a nonimmigrant visa (for a short stay) or an immigrant visa (for lawful permanent residence with a green card), even if they seem to satisfy the qualification standards for one.

A minor offence is unlikely to have an impact on your immigration status. However, traveling to the US with a criminal recor can have different consequences and there are exceptions based on the crime's seriousness, circumstances, and outcome. Terrorist activities and spy crimes are considered inexcusable. Criminal convictions for significant or extremely violent offenses can result in permanent ineligibility, which means you will never be able to lawfully enter the US border again.

But what convictions stop you entering America? You will get a detailed answer to the question in this article. In addition, you will learn what are crimes of moral turpitude, which are crimes that shouldn't prevent you from entering the US, whether the US recognizes pardons and exclusions, and much more useful information.

What Convictions Will Make You Inadmissible to the US?

It is difficult for someone with a criminal record to enter the US. A variety of convictions may result in your entry being refused. Additionally, you should be aware that border agents are not trained as lawyers, so there is a chance that they could misinterpret the law or apply it incorrectly to your case.

The list of offences that will make you ineligible to the United States is below (Remember that not all of these crimes require a court conviction to deny an applicant admission)

  • Crimes involving moral turpitude: these types of crimes include any intent to perpetrate the offense and they do not cover acts committed when the person was under the age of 18.
  • Violation of any nation's rules and regulations regarding banned substances: This covers both trafficking and any organized conspiracy to commit the crime.
  • Criminal convictions for 2 or more offenses with sentences totaling at least five years;
  • Prostitution;
  • Offenses related to human trafficking;
  • Almost everything related to money laundering;
  • If you have previously been deported without a legitimate visa, do not even try to enter the United States. Under US law, this is a serious offense that can result in the maximum possible sentence for this type of crime.

What Are Crimes of Moral Turpitude?

A crime involving moral turpitude is an action that is "base, vile, or depraved, antithetical to society's standards of morality, and done with a reckless, malicious, or malicious purpose."

Moral turpitude is a legal term that is used in current US law under the Immigration and Nationality Act and relates to the following crimes:

  • Pass Bad Inspections;
  • Assault with intent to do serious harm to another person;
  • Serious assaults;
  • Sexual Violence;
  • Burglary;
  • Theft;
  • Aggravated Assault;
  • Profiting from distributing illegal drugs;
  • Human trafficking;
  • Prostitution;
  • Commercialized vice;
  • Participation in major criminal activity;
  • Activities against government authority ( tax evasion, benefit fraud, bribery);
  • Money laundering.

Crimes That Shouldn't Prevent You From Entering the US

The above crimes should not result in refused admission of entry into the US:

  • Crimes that do not qualify as acts of moral turpitude include those in which the offender has only committed one such offense, and:
  • The criminal offence occurred when the individual was under the age of 18, and it occurred more than five years ago.
  • Prison time for the offense didn't exceed a year (independent of the actual sentence you got).
  • Despite being found guilty of the offense, the offender receives a prison sentence of not more than six months.
  • Offenses such as failing to appear, making a disturbance, common assault, and impaired driving are not usually taken into account when considering your admissibility to the nation.
  • The United States does not deny entry to anyone who has been convicted of "Driving Under the Influence" (DUI or DWI), but if you have multiple convictions for this or other misdemeanors, you may be denied entry.

What if You Were Acquitted or You Weren't Convicted?

You should technically get permission to enter the country despite having a criminal arrest record and having been charged but never found guilty or convicted. When you attempt to cross the border, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will have access to this data since it will be on your criminal record.

You can have trouble entering the United States if the border agent is suspicious of something on your criminal record, even if it isn't a conviction.

Does the US Recognize Pardons and Expungements?

The policy of pardons and expungements is generally not recognized in the United States.

A conditional discharge is also treated as a criminal conviction in the US. Even withdrawn charges stay in the law enforcement system, which might cause issues at the border. This implies that individuals who have had a charge withdrawn should be ready to present evidence of the drop when they try to enter the US.

Can Drug Use or Arrest Stop You From Entering the US?

You might still face a travel ban to the US even if you committed a crime but were never charged or convicted. The most typical situations are when the consular officer asks questions like, "Have you ever violated any law related to possessing or selling illegal drugs?" or "Have you ever been arrested, charged, or fingerprinted?". If you say yes and mention anything that suggests you may have committed a major violation, you risk being deemed inadmissible, even if your database record is empty.

There are also cases when persons who had previously admitted publicly to using drugs and those statements ended up on their FBI or RCMP record had their entry to the country denied.

Additionally, you should be aware that US state and federal laws vary greatly in many aspects. Officers of U.S. Customs and Border Protection are federal officials who enforce federal laws in the country. Different state laws exist. Just because marijuana has been legalized in the state you're trying to enter doesn't mean border security considers it acceptable for people to possess or consume it. You can be refused entry if you confess to using narcotics.

Convictions That Will Make You Inadmissible to the US: The Takeaway

You should keep in mind that in this area, US immigration law is not straightforward, and applications are subject to significant discretion on the part of visa judges and border officers. Also, it's very important to know that US visa law is exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act of 1974, so even convictions that can be considered expunged must be reported.

Written by Abisola Fikayomi

Abisola is an accomplished writer interested in US Travel, immigration, passports and visas. She’s passionate about exploring new places and cultures and willing to share her experiences, expertize and findings with others. That is her primary drive for specialising in this industry.


After a conviction, you must apply for a visa at the US embassy in your home country before flying to the US. Depending on the charges you were found guilty of, the US authorities will decide whether to provide you with a visa to travel to the US.
If you are a UK citizen who's been convicted of a crime, you must perform the following in order to get a holiday visa:
  • Fill out the online visa application form (You need to complete the arrest/conviction details on a personal data sheet (VCU-01) in addition to the visa application. The information must include specifics on the arrest or conviction).
  • Provide information about your criminal history.
  • Provide certified documentation of your criminal history by obtaining a police certificate from ACPO fewer than six months before your visa interview.
  • Schedule an interview at the US embassy.
  • Engage in the visa interview.
  • Await the decision.

If you have a criminal record, you may still be able to apply for a visa and a criminal waiver, which includes declaring your criminal past and being assessed for eligibility before traveling to the United States. Before traveling to the USA, individuals who have been arrested or convicted must make visa applications at the US Embassy in their country.
In general, you will not be eligible to travel visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program if you have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime.
If you have a criminal record for using an illegal drug, you will not be able to enter the United States.

Global Entry: Apply for Faster Entry to the USA

Low-risk individuals who need entrance into the USA frequently can do so through one of the following; Global Entry, SENTRI, TSA PreCheck®, FAST, and NEXUS. The Global Entry Visa program allows eligible applicants to enter the US freely without passing through the border officials.

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