Immigration Law 101: Can a Criminal Background Stop You From Obtaining a Visa in the U.S.?

Immigration Law 101: Can a Criminal Background Stop You From Obtaining a Visa in the U.S.?

The United States has always been a land of opportunity, attracting individuals from all over the world seeking a better life, education, and career prospects. However, the path to realizing these dreams through immigration can be complex, especially if one has a criminal background. This blog post will explore the impact of a criminal record on obtaining a visa in the U.S., shedding light on the challenges immigrants with such backgrounds may face and possible solutions.

Understanding Inadmissibility

The U.S. immigration system takes into account an individual's criminal history to determine their eligibility for a visa. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), certain criminal offenses can render an individual "inadmissible" to the United States. 

Inadmissibility means that the person is not allowed to enter or be admitted to the country. The grounds for inadmissibility can vary and include crimes involving moral turpitude, drug offenses, multiple criminal convictions, and certain offenses related to national security and terrorism.

Visa Denials and Deportation

For aspiring immigrants with a criminal background, the road to obtaining a visa can be filled with challenges. When applying for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, the Department of State conducts a thorough background check. If the applicant’s criminal record raises concerns, they may face a visa denial. 

Unfortunately, if you already live in the U.S. as an immigrant, you may face deportation or removal proceedings if your criminal history comes to the attention of immigration authorities.

Types of Crimes and Severity

The impact of a criminal background on immigration prospects depends on the nature and severity of the crime committed. Minor offenses may not result in inadmissibility — but serious crimes, such as violent offenses, drug trafficking, or crimes involving moral turpitude, can lead to significant hurdles in obtaining a visa. Having multiple criminal convictions (even for lesser offenses) can compound the challenges faced by immigrants seeking entry into the U.S.

Waivers and Relief

In some cases, waivers may be available to overcome certain grounds of inadmissibility. 

A waiver is essentially a pardon that allows an individual with a criminal background to be eligible for a visa or admission to the U.S. However, obtaining a waiver is a complex and discretionary process, requiring strong evidence of rehabilitation and good moral character. Waivers are typically available for specific inadmissibility grounds, such as crimes involving moral turpitude or unlawful presence.

Seeking Legal Guidance

Given the complexities of immigration law and the potential consequences of a criminal record, seeking legal advice from an experienced attorney is essential — especially if you have a criminal background and want to visit or live in the U.S. 

Our team, for example, can carefully assess specific circumstances, advise on the best course of action, and help navigate the complex visa application process. We can also assist in preparing a strong case for a waiver if needed.

Can Hickey & Hull Law Partners Help You?

At Hickey & Hull Law Partners, we may not specialize in immigration law, but we are still here to provide valuable assistance to individuals with criminal backgrounds who are seeking to pursue their dreams in America. 

Our team of experienced attorneys has a deep understanding of the legal landscape and can offer expert guidance in various aspects related to immigration and criminal law — even if all you want is a free consultation.

Chat now, fill out our online form, or contact us today to learn more. Our River Valley office number is 479.434.2414, and our Northwest Arkansas number is 479.802.6560.