February 3, 2022. 
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

U.S. visa with a criminal record: Can I still apply?

You can apply for a U.S. visa if you have a criminal record, but this doesn’t guarantee your approval. Whether you apply for a non-immigrant or immigrant visa, the Consular Officer will decide on your next step. Imagine you have applied for a tourist visa. When you arrive at the Embassy or Consulate for your visa interview, the Consular Officer will take your biometric information that includes your fingerprints, signature, and photo. They will perform a background check on you. USCIS wants to know if you as a U.S. visa applicant have a criminal background. This is where the story gets tricky. It is not completely known what kind of criminal misdemeanor might disqualify you from getting a U.S. visa. The Consular Officer determines if you’re eligible for the waiver of inadmissibility for your criminal conviction.

U.S. visa with a criminal record is not as black and white as it sounds

First of all, “inadmissibility” is a relative qualification. If you have a criminal record, that means you had a conviction or a charge for a particular action. However, INA states that a conviction is still a legal transgression even if it is not on your criminal record. This includes cases where you have been found guilty or you have pled guilty to a crime. Even if you don’t have an official criminal record within your country of residence or the U.S., your potentially existing legal transgression might be a conviction in the eyes of the USCIS. It is like walking on thin ice, right?

What surely qualifies as a criminal conviction

There are three types of crimes that will strongly decrease your chances of getting a U.S. visa approval:

Aggravated felonies

Murder, human trafficking, sexual abuse, and drug trafficking are the major ones. If you have any of these on your criminal record, this could mark you as inadmissible. Also, there is a possibility you couldn’t enter the United States.

Illegal drug involvement

If they caught you with over 30 grams of illegal drugs, this doesn’t look good in your visa application. The Consular Officer might reject your application because they’ll think you pose a danger to U.S. citizens and LPRs. It is all about protecting the U.S. border and its residents. If you have experience with illegal drugs on your record, it is very common to think that you’ll attempt having that in the U.S. as well. If they caught you with below 30 grams of illegal drugs, the Consular Officer might approve your visa on the spot or advise you to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility.

Crimes of moral turpitude

Moral turpitude is a subjective thing. It is people who are reviewing your application and giving you visa approval. It is also people who are qualifying something as a transgression related to moral turpitude. Rape and fraud are criminal convictions officially recognized by USCIS as crimes of moral turpitude.

You can apply for a U.S. visa with a criminal record but the approval odds are not in your favor

If you have a criminal misdemeanor or criminal felony, you have to prepare yourself for being rejected. There are cases when you’re given a chance to apply for the waiver of inadmissibility due to a relevant reason. If you want to visit your dying parent or relative, or you need to receive medical treatment, the Consular Officer might guide you towards applying for the waiver. If you become allowed to enter the U.S., you will have a limited stay. When applying for a Green card, your background needs to be favorable. Again, it is up to the Customs and Borders Protection Admissibility Review Office to review your waiver application and determine if you would present a potential security risk while staying on the U.S. territory. The Consular Officer files the waiver of inadmissibility. They send it to the Customs and Borders Protection Admissibility Review Office digitally.

The Consular Officer will know if you lie

Even if you trick the Consular Officer, your background check will form an objective picture of your visa eligibility. The majority of countries keep their citizens' criminal records public. Keep in mind that law enforcement databases are public even when civilians are not aware of that. Keep your visa application one-hundred percent honest at all times. If you have a criminal conviction, explain why during your visa interview. There is always a tiny ray of hope for your visa approval. When applying for a U.S. visa with a criminal record, get help from our team of consultants who will guide you throughout the process.

If you would like to attend a consultation for your visa, reach out to VisaExpress today and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.


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