Staying In The Country I Love

Visas And Criminal Convictions: What You Must Know

Looking to get a visa in order to live and work in the United States? The process is typically complex even under the best of circumstances, but what if you have a criminal conviction on your record? This makes the chances of a rejection much more likely, although your application might still be approved, depending on the circumstances.

Here is a closer look at an important issue that affects many of those wishing to enter this country.


The laws governing the immigration process are codified in the Immigration and Nationality Act, also known as the INA. This set of laws determines whether a person is able to gain entrance to the U.S despite having a criminal record. The basis for the relevant statutes is that Americans want people of good moral character to be given preference while keeping out those who have shown that they have criminal tendencies.

One of the most important concepts recognized by the INA is "moral turpitude." This phrase refers to certain crimes that the government considers to be extremely serious and a legitimate reason to reject an immigration application. Some of the crimes that fall into this category include murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and child abuse. If you have a conviction for a crime that falls under the moral turpitude category, then it may be impossible to gain admission to the country.


You can sometimes obtain an exception to the law if your conviction occurred when you were under the age of 18, or the crime happened more than five years in the past and did not involve a lengthy prison sentence. The exception is generally not available if you have more than one conviction on your record.

In some cases, the INA will grant a waiver to an applicant convicted of a serious crime, if the there is evidence that they have been rehabilitated.

Minor Crimes

Minor crimes and misdemeanors can also keep your application from being approved if you have numerous convictions, or the INA decides that they fall into the moral turpitude category.


Regardless of your criminal conviction history, always remain truthful on your application. If you lie and the falsehood is discovered, the government may refuse to consider any application from you in the future.

The issue of immigration and criminal records are complex and virtually impossible for an applicant to navigate without professional help. If you find yourself in this situation, consult competent immigration lawyers.