Criminal Records

Applying for a Visa – Criminal Records. How Criminal Records Affect a Visa Application

Clients often contact our office with questions about applying for a visa to the United States, if they have a criminal past or if they have been arrested.  The call usually comes after the client has started filling out a visa application and does not know how or does not want to answer a question appearing on a Visa Application.

First of all, aside from obvious moral reasons, a person should never lie on a visa application to the United States.  Attempting to obtain a visa by misrepresentation can result in permanent exclusion from the United States.  

Generally speaking, criminals are not welcome in any country, let alone as visitors to a foreign country.  However, not every crime committed will prevent someone from obtaining a visa to the United States.  May factors are taken into consideration when adjudicating a visa. When someone has been arrested or has been convicted of a crime in the past, the Consul may render his decision based on whether the crime was a felony or misdemeanor, whether single or multiple convictions, whether a crime of violence or drugs, and whether the offence constitutes a Crime Involving Moral Turpetude (CIMT).  Other considerations may be the amount of time that has passed since the crime was committed or since the conviction.

The Consul may ask to see Police or Court Records before making a Decision.  Sometimes the Consul has no Discretion as to whether to issue the visa or not and the Application must be recommended to the Attorney General for a Waiver of Inadmissibility – if the circumstances seem to warrant such a recommendation.

In many instances a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude will be a permanent bar to entry into the U.S. for a temporary visit – unless a Waiver for Humanitarian Reasons is granted.  Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude are generally determined by Case Law.  Also, a crime committed in some states might constitute a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude while in other states it will not.

It is generally believed that crimes involving violence or drugs automatically disqualify the Applicant for a Visa.  In most cases this is true but in some circumstances this will not prevent a visa from being issued.

Generally speaking, if you have not committed a crime in the U.S. or are wanted by Interpol, it is unlikely that you will be denied entry to the U.S. if you have a currently valid visa.  The question of criminal record will probably not arise when entering the United States, since it will have been examined at the time of Application for the Visa.  However, when a person wishes to apply for a new visa in lieu of an expired one, the question will be reexamined.

If you have been arrested or committed a crime in the past, you should consult with an Immigration Lawyer before applying for a visa to the United States.

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