Under United States immigration law, a visa applicant may be found inadmissible based on his or her previous criminal actions or convictions. In these circumstances, the relief available may be limited.
The Immigration and Nationality Act provides in section 212(h), that at the discretion of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a waiver may be granted to those found to be inadmissible due to:
- A crime involving moral turpitude
- Multiple criminal convictions
- Controlled substance violation if it involved a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana
- Prostitution and commercialized vice
- Involvement in a serious criminal activity and having asserted immunity from prosecution.
Crime Involving Moral Turpitude
An individual is inadmissible if he or she has been convicted of, or admits committing acts that constitute a crime involving moral turpitude (or attempt or conspiracy to commit such a crime). This is one of the more common grounds of inadmissibility.
Crimes involving moral turpitude cover a wide range of offenses. Courts have defined them as acts that are morally reprehensible and intrinsically wrong as opposed to a violation of a regulatory prohibition. A crime involving moral turpitude will generally involve an act that is contrary to justice, honesty, or good morals. As such, a crime involving moral turpitude will generally include crimes with evil intent as an element of the crime.
Given this very ambiguous definition of a crime involving moral turpitude, it is extremely important that you consult an immigration attorney if you have a previous criminal conviction, no matter how minor you may think the violation is. If you are planning on applying for any visa, you must understand how your conviction may affect your eligibility for a visa.
If you have committed an act constituting a crime involving moral turpitude, you may be eligible for the “petty offence” exception or potentially a waiver.
Drug Related Offenses
An individual may be found inadmissible if he or she has been convicted of or admits committing a violation of (or conspiracy or attempt to violate) any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance. Any drug conviction or admission of the essential elements of a controlled substance offense will render an individual inadmissible.
Furthermore, an individual will be inadmissible if there is reason for a consular officer or the Attorney General knows or has reason to believe that the individual is or has been a drug trafficker or is the spouse, son or daughter of a drug trafficker and has obtained any financial or other benefit from the drug trafficker’s illegal activities.
Multiple Criminal Convictions
An individual is inadmissible if he or she has been convicted of 2 or more offenses for which the aggregate sentences to confinement were 5 years or more. The convictions need not be from two separate events; they may arise from a single trial or from a single scheme of misconduct. This ground of inadmissibility applies whether or not the offenses involve moral turpitude.
There are several other types of criminal conduct that could result in a finding of inadmissibility. These include prostitution and commercialized vice, certain individuals who were involved in serious criminal activity who have asserted immunity from prosecution, human trafficking, money laundering, and participation in sever violations of religious freedom by foreign government officials.