Can I enter the US of America with a criminal record?

esta criminal record

If you have a criminal record and are planning to enter the United States of America on a tourist visa or an ESTA visa waiver, you might have certain difficulties when applying. However, this is not to say it is impossible.  

More often than not the criminal record itself is not the actual obstacle to getting a visa or an ESTA, as everything depends on whether or not you were convicted.

Furthermore, it is the type of conviction that matters!

Murderers and rapists will not be treated the same as those who have misdemeanor charges such as “Driving under Influence” (DUI).

Whether you will be granted an ESTA or a visa depends entirely on the details of your criminal history.

Following are some examples, which most probably will not lead to a denial of entry nor a visa/ESTA application rejection:

  • Drinking and Driving / Driving under influence
  • Assault
  • Illegal trespassing

Having committed such misdemeanor crimes once will not be sufficient grounds for denial of entry. However, if you have committed those crimes repeatedly, then these same grounds will serve as sufficient proof for denial of entry / visa / ESTA rejection.

Drug convictions are a very probable reason for denying the entry of applicants.

Crimes of moral turpitude such as:

  • Rape
  • Kidnap
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Forgery

Will most probably result in a denial of entry. In those situations, applicants should rather look into making a Tourist Visa application, instead of an ESTA visa waiver application.

Travelling to America with a criminal record

Important note: All convictions must be declared, and all answers to the related ESTA / Visa application questions must be honest and truthful. Failing to do so will lead to severe consequences should a U.S. immigration officer determine that you have committed fraud by failing to declare any past arrests or convictions. Should you decide to omit/skip this information, substantial penalties and legal action will follow.

If you are from a country, such as the United Kingdom, where the law allows to avoid full disclosure of some criminal convictions, note that making a visa or an ESTA application for the United States waves all such rights. During the application process, it is required of all applicants to disclose any past and/or present criminal information fully.

Those who are applying for a tourist visa for the USA will go through the official interview stage. Should you have a criminal record, you will be required to show official documentation related to the conviction, during the interview process.

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