entering usa with criminal record

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millieorse | 23:32 Tue 10th Apr 2007 | Travel
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We are thinking of taking a trip with friends to Orlando later this year but have just been informed that because our friend has a criminal record for deception (using someone elses credit card back in1991) for which he was fined, he would not be allowed entry into US. No convictions prior or since, was just a very silly boy!!!! Any advice would be great xxxx


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(2-part post):

I think that the AnswerBank should have a special category, just for questions about entry into the USA with criminal convictions. They seem to take up a large part of the 'Travel' section!

Let's start with a few facts:
1. According to the US embassy website, anyone who has ever been arrested (even if totally innocent) or convicted of any offence (except very minor motoring offences) is ineligible to enter the USA under the Visa Waiver Program.

2. The US embassy website states that anyone who is ineligible for the Visa Waiver Program must apply for a visa.

3. The visa application, for people with criminal convictions, is lengthy and complicated. The first step is to apply, with a �10 fee, to the local police HQ for a copy of the applicant's police record. (This can take up to 40 days). Once this is sorted out, an interview has to be arranged at the the US embassy in London. (The typical waiting time for an appointment is 2 to 3 weeks. The application fee is US$100). While waiting, the applicant should download and complete the relevant forms from the embassy website. At the interview, a fee of �13.50 has to be paid for the return, by courier, of their passport. After attending the interview, there's a long wait before a decision is made. (This used to be quoted as 14 to 16 weeks. However, it's currently shown as 'a minimum of 8 weeks'). During this period, the applicant is effectively barred from international travel, because his passport will be held at the embassy.

4. Full details about the visa requirements can be found here: add_crime.html

However, here are a few more facts:
5. The actual form, which travellers (using the Visa Waiver Program) fill in on the plane, only asks about convictions 'for crimes of moral turpitude'. Therefore, many people who've been convicted of minor offences can truthfully answer 'No' to this question. (I'm not sure whether 'deception' counts as 'moral turpitude').

6. The US authorities have no direct access to UK criminal records. Some information is passed on but it's extremely unlikely that your friend's conviction would show up.

So, your friend will have to choose between 'going by the book' (i.e. applying for a visa) or doing what many (most?) people would do and 'forget' about his conviction for the purposes of the Visa Waiver Program. If he applies for a visa, he'd almost certainly get one. (Over 35% of UK males have a criminal record by the age of 30. The US authorities only want to exclude those who present the greatest risk). On the other hand, he'd probably also be able to get in (illegally) under the Visa Waiver Program.

The visa option would be more complicated but he'd be able to relax at US immigration control. The VWP option would be simpler but he might find himself worrying about US immigration checks.

Good answer Chris, but from one pedant to another I'm sure you will appreciate a couple of comments... ;-D

- to the visa cost, add gbp10 for the cost of the US sized passport photos (not normal UK passport pictures, they're wider). Also, any questions to the embassy have to be put to an 09x number that is over gbp1.00 a minute, gbp1.20 I think. Even then this embassy line cannot be relied on to be 100% accurate (in my experience!).
- You can apply for your interview before you have got your Subject Access Notice (police record). Best to try and do these in parallel as they both have long lead times.
- When you apply for the visa, at interview, they do not necessarily hold your passport. In my case they stamped it 'Visa applied for on [date]', and handed it back to me. and I travelled abroad (not the US!) after the interview and before having to send my passport back in to have the visa issued a few weeks later.
The essence of Moral Turpitude is...
Larceny [i.e. theft]
Intent to harm others or things aN.pdf

So on the face of it I expect credit card fraud bars you from the Visa Waiver Scheme
Question Author
Thank you both for your advice. Im sure my friend will no doubt take the 'applying for a visa' route as his girlfriend would not be able to handle the stress upon arrival, lol!!!!!

I cannot believe that anyone who has ever been arrested, regardless of conviction or not, is not eligible for travel under the VWP.....shocking!!!!

I can totally understand not being granted entry for sexual crimes, murder & terrorism etc but being arrested for shall we say being drunk & disorderly when your 19 should certainly not go aginst you 20 years down the line. My god, there must be millions entering the US illegally every year!
Hi millieorse i agree with you and wish you lots of luck and good wishes love megan
>>I cannot believe that anyone who has ever been arrested, regardless of conviction or not, is not eligible for travel under the VWP.....shocking!!!!

Herein lies a very confusing contradiction. The embassy say you need a visa if you have ever been as much as arrested.

The Visa Waiver Scheme form asks if you have ever committed a crime of Moral Turpitude. Plenty of crimes are not Moral Turpitude

>>My god, there must be millions entering the US illegally every year!

Quite! (irrespective of my comment above) devastated to think that i cant have my planned wedding as my partner has quite a severe criminal record and i have 1 criminal conviction there no way we can both get into the states.....just on a tourist visa for a honeymoon? i know we've both made mistakes.....but we are no threat!!! i appreciate any help?!! i have family in the states.....could i 'use' them as callorate??? x
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