Will my chequered past stop me from getting into the US?


There has been a lot of talk in the press recently about how past indiscretions can be a bar to travel to the US.


The possible impact Michael Gove's coke history may have on any future trips to Disneyland have been much discussed. And let's not forget Nigella Lawson's in court admission of taking the same drug, that led to her being turned around when trying to board a US flight.


The stories also revolve around the idea that since Trump came to power US authorities have made getting a US visa more difficult. While it's true that the 'extreme vetting' of certain applicants and the recent formalising of the requirement to disclose social media history is undoubtedly a factor. The US has been tightening up on the application of its immigration laws for some time.


If you are from the UK or most western countries, you will be eligible to use the visa waiver or ESTA programme to travel to the US. If you have committed any serious crimes or have a drug history, your ESTA application will be denied, and you will need to apply for a visa.


Misrepresentation, including not completing ESTA or visa forms truthfully, can cause visa denials. We always advise complete disclosure of any past incidents as the US authorities tend to view wilful misrepresentation as more severe than the original crime.


To try and clarify a few points about US immigration law, without resorting to cutting and pasting chunks of statute and regulations;


Certain crimes and actions make you 'ineligible' to enter the US, including any involvement with illegal drugs' and controlled substances'. Most importantly, you can be inadmissible for a crime - even if you have never been convicted of it.


Nigella Lawson stated that she had taken cocaine. She was never even arrested, let alone convicted. Her admission was sufficient enough to make her ineligible to enter the US.


The Immigration and Nationality ACT (INA) is the US statute. It sets out the activities that can make applicants ineligible, together with various codes and regulations. It is the source for all decisions about who can and cannot come into the country.


All the reasons for ineligibility are listed and coded. In addition to possession of drugs, the commission of serious crimes is a no-no. The term 'crime involving moral turpitude' is the phrase used to decide if the offence is severe enough to be a bar to entry.

This translates to any serious crime and most offences involving stealing.


However, the INA also has a section on 'waivers of ineligibility'. These are laws which provide a means of overcoming the specific ineligibility under certain circumstances.


The decision to grant a waiver or not takes into account all the circumstances of the applicant;

The time passed since any offence was committed, how many offences, the visa category applied for etc.


To sum up;

If you want to travel to the US for work, most of our clients are from the entertainment business. They travel to the US on O or P visas, business or holiday and have a bit of history - so don't despair!  

With preparation, patience and perseverance, most ineligibilities can be overcome, and Viva La Visa is here to help you all the way.