Entering the USA with a UK criminal record

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helthom | 21:14 Sat 05th Jun 2010 | Criminal
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I havea criminal conviction for shoplifting offences from 1 year ago. I have a holiday booked to the USA however I am so worried about being denied entry. How likely is it that I will be accepted for a Visa? Also if I do not declare my record, will they have access to them when my fingerprints are taken at the airport? I have travelled to theUSA twice before but before my convictions. If anybody can give me advice it would be great. Also if anybody has travelled recently with a similar problem- info would be appreciated.
Thank you


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When is your holiday booked?
short answer is that if you don't declare them the immigration authorities are unlikely to know about them unless you are on a known terrorist list, in which case they will be looking at you very hard.

Bear in mind that if you apply for a visa waiver you don't get a visa, just permission to enter the country without one.
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4 months- my conviction will be just over one year old when I travel
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Hello, Yes I understand the VW is not a visa- I mean if I apply for a Visa declaring my convictions, what would be the chance of them granting me one. Many people say the US have access to UK criminal records through the finger print data base in the airport. Is this untrue?
as far as I know, totally untrue. Information about international criminals, terror suspects etc is no doubt shared. Ordinary crime records aren't. The main purpose of fingerprints, I believe is just to check you in and check you out again.
(2-part post):

If you apply for a visa be prepared for a very long wait. The US Nationality and Immigration Act states that anyone convicted of an offence of 'moral turpitude' (which includes theft) is ineligible to enter the USA. (There are a couple of exceptions to that rule but they're not relevant here). So the US Embassy is obliged (in the first instance) to reject any visa application from you. However the matter can then be referred to Washington as an application for a 'waiver of ineligibility'. If that is granted the embassy can then re-assess your visa application. The whole process typically takes at least 6 months. (The longest wait I've seen reported here on AB was from someone who waited 15 months before having their visa application rejected due to two convictions for driving without insurance). It's almost certainly too late to get a visa for travel in 2010 and you might find that you'd still be waiting for a reply well into 2011. Further, with such a recent conviction it's quite likely that your application would be refused anyway.
Most people simply 'forget' about their convictions and enter the USA under the Visa Waiver Program (with an ESTA). EU privacy laws bar member states from opening up criminal records, on a 'carte blanche' basis, to other governments. Only 'need to know' information (such as that relating to suspected terrorists, drug traffickers, etc) is passed on. The US authorities can make specific requests for information but they have to be routed through Interpol channels; they can't just ask the British authorities directly.

I've been posting that information (usually several times per week!) here on AB for the past few years but another contributor has recently provided a link to a response from the Home Office to a Freedom of Information request about what the UK authorities pass on to the USA. It confirms what I've been posting:

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Thank you very much- this has been a great help
Could helthom, please let me know how you got on with your holiday to the US.
Especially since you have conviction for shoplifting. Did you get your visa and if not were you told when you can apply again.

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Entering the USA with a UK criminal record

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