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Travelling to US with a criminal record in the UK

Travel Forums North America Travelling to US with a criminal record in the UK

1471. Posted by CheersT (Travel Guru 2455 posts) 14w

Dexter67 & losangelessam, thanks for the kind words.

Too bad this insanely long, ridiculous thread couldn't be distilled down to less than a hundred of the most accurate, relevant posts...

All the best to you. Happy travels.

Cheers,
Terry

1472. Posted by hinkyd (Budding Member 4 posts) 14w

Hey all

Just thought I'd add my experience to the mix as I found this thread, and the regular contributors, very helpful.

10 years ago, when I was 20 I was convicted of possession of cannabis (1 spliff) and and an offensive weapon (a small Crocodile Dundee type knife as I was coming home from a fancy dress party). I toyed with the idea of ignoring these and going for an ESTA but decided I couldn't, as at some point I may need to study or work in the US and they'd see straight away I'd lied to get the ESTA, then I'd have no chance of ever getting in.

Filled the endless forms out for a London appointment as the website said a 16 day wait. They lied. It was more like 2.5 months! So then opted for Belfast for a much earlier appointment - about 3 weeks wait. I logged on several times a day after making the initial appointment and there were often much earlier ones available in mostly Belfast but occasionally London, where people had cancelled I guess. I changed my appointment time twice doing this.

And so I'm just back from Belfast and my Embassy appointment (flew there from Gatwick, cheap EasyJet and Jury's Inn hotel, busses everywhere). It was very quiet there, and very quick. In and out in 45 minutes I guess. In the actual interview (with a nice lady who said the US didn't want to stop people like me going there) all she was concerned about was my drug conviction and how much it was for. Nothing about my financial ability to go the States, about my intentions to return, about whether I was reformed. I was not eligible for a visa due to my drug conviction but that she was recommending me for a 5 year waiver of ineligibility (because it was a tiny amount and 10 years ago). There is a 3-4 month wait for this to be processed and she said the recommendations are hardly ever ignored.

So I'm relieved I've done it properly and know that I can (eventually) visit the States legally. I will always travel with the paperwork I prepared for the interview though, just in case I am questioned at length about any of it on arrival to the US.

Hink

1473. Posted by Tim123456 (Budding Member 6 posts) 14w

Quoting hinkyd

Hey all

Just thought I'd add my experience to the mix as I found this thread, and the regular contributors, very helpful.

10 years ago, when I was 20 I was convicted of possession of cannabis (1 spliff) and and an offensive weapon (a small Crocodile Dundee type knife as I was coming home from a fancy dress party). I toyed with the idea of ignoring these and going for an ESTA but decided I couldn't, as at some point I may need to study or work in the US and they'd see straight away I'd lied to get the ESTA, then I'd have no chance of ever getting in.

Filled the endless forms out for a London appointment as the website said a 16 day wait. They lied. It was more like 2.5 months! So then opted for Belfast for a much earlier appointment - about 3 weeks wait. I logged on several times a day after making the initial appointment and there were often much earlier ones available in mostly Belfast but occasionally London, where people had cancelled I guess. I changed my appointment time twice doing this.

And so I'm just back from Belfast and my Embassy appointment (flew there from Gatwick, cheap EasyJet and Jury's Inn hotel, busses everywhere). It was very quiet there, and very quick. In and out in 45 minutes I guess. In the actual interview (with a nice lady who said the US didn't want to stop people like me going there) all she was concerned about was my drug conviction and how much it was for. Nothing about my financial ability to go the States, about my intentions to return, about whether I was reformed. I was not eligible for a visa due to my drug conviction but that she was recommending me for a 5 year waiver of ineligibility (because it was a tiny amount and 10 years ago). There is a 3-4 month wait for this to be processed and she said the recommendations are hardly ever ignored.

So I'm relieved I've done it properly and know that I can (eventually) visit the States legally. I will always travel with the paperwork I prepared for the interview though, just in case I am questioned at length about any of it on arrival to the US.

Hink

Hi Hinkyd,

Thank you for posting your circumstances and how you have decided to go about your situation, in the hope of receiving a waiver of ineligibility.

Your predicament is near on identical to mine and therefore I was wondering if I could run a few questions past you in the hope of a response from you as somebody that has gone through exactly what I am aiming to do, in the very near future, due to the need to travel to the United States with work as of the end of 2017.

Firstly, would you be able to elaborate on what your conviction exactly was for cannabis? For example was it a caution, court conviction etc and also how did it show up on your ACRO form?

Secondly you mentioned that you will be carrying all the paperwork that you took along with you to the interview. What did this consist of?

Finally, what reason did the lady give you for putting you forward for the waiver? Did she mention anything that boded well in your particular position and would you suggest going to the Belfast office for the interview as oppose to going to the London office?

As a back ground on my circumstances for all to be aware of and in the hope that Travelman99 and Cheers T also see this and decide to share their thoughts with me. When I was 17 (9 years this week) I was given a formal caution for possession of a very small amount of cannabis. This was also when cannabis was considered a class C drug. When I attended a youth counselling appointment which was apparently a standard requirement for all formal youth cautions for drugs that I had to attend as I was under 18. The lady at the assessment center told me that after 5 years it would not have any affect on my travel to countries such as the US as it would no longer be on my criminal record. This has obviously changed and I am completely aware that the laws mean that all cautions are now kept on the police national computer.

Moreover I am a born and bred in England and am a UK citizen and have had no other run ins with the law since. I recently applied for my for my subject access disclosure documents via ACPO and the offence shows on there as - Disposal: Reprimand. It also says: Adjudication is Reprimand too. The offence description says "Possess Cannabis a Class C controlled drug".

With that said due to the time since the offence and the fact that I have been to university and have been in full time work since graduating I really am hoping I receive the same fortune as yourself upon applying for a visa at the office. At current after reading your post I am very much likely take the trip up to Belfast as you did (the lady you had seemed very nice!)

As many others have mentioned, a huge thank you to Travelman99 and CheersT for their persistent and informative contributions to the thread, in which I am sure that many people in the similar situations have gained much relief and reassurance in their thoughts. It truly is beyond admirable and as someone who has kept an eye on this thread for well over a year Thank you both!

Tim

[ Edit: Edited on 24-Aug-2016, at 14:51 by Tim123456 ]

1474. Posted by hinkyd (Budding Member 4 posts) 14w

Hi Tim, and anyone else this can help

My conviction was for “POSSESS CANNABIS A CLASS C CONTROLLED DRUG”. I was fined £50, costs £42 and forfeiture and destruction of drugs. I received 150 hours of community service for the offensive weapon, both from a magistrates court and it did show up on the ACRO, along with something I did when I was 17 (smashed a bus stop pane) for which I got a police reprimand.

The ACRO is as long winded a form as the DS160 and asks for all your addresses in the last 10 years (a lot for me as I’d been to Uni for 4 years and back home for each summer break) and you need an endorser to be able to submit it. The DS160 wants all your schooling info from about 13 years old, and employment history, have you been abroad in the last 5 years, each time you have ever visited the US. The DS160 kept logging me out after a very short period of inactivity, so I’d save every page as you go, and if you write something complicated in a text box, do it in Word first so you don’t have to keep redoing it when you ponder too long.

The paperwork. As well as the required documents (receipt of payment, confirmation page of appointment, passport, photos etc) I took copies of the DS160 and my ACRO form, details of my US visits in case they asked me why I’d been there, proof of why I’d return to the UK (employment contract, PHD applications, letter confirming my MsC at Uni, voluntary work info - as I don’t have a mortgage or wife/kids) and my ability to support myself financially whilst I was in the US (ie the fact I will be travelling with family with credit cards). This was possibly overkill but I’d read so many blogs etc where they were questioned in detail on these things. So when I travel to the US I will take my DS160, ACRO and whatever I have currently to prove I will return to the UK and can afford to be in the US as I am aware that a Waiver of Ineligibility does not guarantee access to the US.

I picked Belfast even though I only live 1.5 hours from London as everything I’d read suggested it was a quieter, calmer place with much less hanging around, all of which was true. And the trains are pretty crap for us at the mo due to the ongoing strike action and it was as easy to get to Belfast. So it was more expensive to get there, as I flew out the night before for a 1045 appointment but the EJ flights were about £70, £70 hotel, £15 bus fares. No brainer for me, as I don’t like London!

The lady was clear that I would be very welcome in the US but that I couldn’t have be given a Visa. She did want to know why I had the drugs and the amount (I was given one spliff at the party to smoke and one to take home – the one I was caught with!). The form you are given at the end of the interview says you have been refused a visa for “violation of any laws or regulations relating to controlled substances”. As the amount of cannabis was so minimal and so long ago she said she would recommend me for a 5 year Waiver, and that the recommendation of the Immigration Officers is rarely ignored.

I was 20 when I was convicted, I don’t know whether being 17 changes anything. I just know that my PHD and work will probably require me to go to the US at some point in my life, and I couldn’t risk lying to get an ESTA just for a family holiday. The paperwork was a pain, the travel was a pain but everyone in Belfast was just lovely and if I’d had more time, I would have stayed a couple of days longer to do touristy stuff(Titanic Museum, Ulster Museum, Crumlin Road Gaol).

Hope this helps someone, as this was the most helpful thread I stumbled across.

Hink

1475. Posted by Tim123456 (Budding Member 6 posts) 14w

Hi Hink,

Wow - thank you for your detailed and compelling reply, it really has helped me garner an understanding of what I need to do going forward.

It seems our offence was the same in terms of the cannabis offence and I really am happy to hear that you had a good response from your interviewer at the appointment, in terms of her mentioning that you would be very welcome in the US.

I am going to make a start on my ACRO soon and then will make a start on the DC-160 form once I have received the ACRO. My apologies in advance but I have another question. At any point during the DC-160 form does it ask about convictions? If so what are the questions?

Furthermore when signing up for a appointment at the Belfast embassy was there often a number of times and dates available to chose from? I hoping on having the ACRO and DC-160 forms completed and sorted by this time next month (being generous on time) and then will be hoping to get an appointment date towards the end of October/beginning of November. Does this seem like a suffice timescale?

Also you mentioned that the lady asked about why you had the drugs and the amount, but did she ask for any proof of this or did she take you word for it? I was thinking I may ask for the police notes from the police station that were responsible for the processing of my caution to justify that mine too, was a small amount.

My apologies for the almost Q&A esque responses to your posts, however I am really grateful to have finally found someone in a similar situation to me and will definitely be keeping everyone up to date with any outcomes for all to see and hopefully find helpful too.

Many thanks again,

Tim

1476. Posted by planetclaire (First Time Poster 1 posts) 14w

I am a British lady living in Britain and wishing to travel to the USA to attend a friend's wedding next year.

33 years ago I was convicted of possession and possession with intent to supply approx 3.5 grams of cannabis. In brief, I was young and foolish and did not engage my brain before agreeing to purchase this cannabis for a colleague and take it to them at the local pub. As the transaction was in process, I was seen by a bartender and the police were called. They arrived very quickly and I admitted to doing just what I have explained here. I even gave them the cannabis ; at the time they arrived I had not received payment for the cannabis from my colleague, who had gone to get a drink from the bar in mid "transaction". I was as honest as I could be with the police, not realizing that admitting to being in "mid sale" as it were would not work to my advantage. I was therefore convicted not only of possession but also intent to supply. I was given a small fine for the possession charge and a conditional discharge for the intent to supply part of the conviction. This was my first and only offence and has haunted me ever since.

Some time ago I applied for and received Criminal Rehabilitation from Canada (I have been there a few times now) and when their system changed and the ETA system came into effect, I applied for and received an ETA.

I am aware that the USA does things very differently to Canada and this crime would make me not only inadmissible for an ESTA but probably for a visa too. My question is, now that Canada have all my information, would they automatically share this with the USA, even though I am a British citizen? Would the ETA contain the details of the application and would this "flag up" at a US port of entry?

I would be very grateful if someone could assist me with this as I am unsure of a) the answer to the above questions and b) what the best way to proceed as far as visiting the USA would be.

1477. Posted by amenicycinema (Budding Member 22 posts) 14w

planetclaire - I'm not sure if Canada and the US share info like that. I think it's unlikely though as it seems US states don't even share info sometimes! I was arrested & charged for marijuana possession in america while living there many years ago. I was able fly in and out no problem lots of times afterwards UNTIL I flew back into the state where I was arrested - they had the info on their system but no-one else had ever flagged it up, so must have been state-specific.

you'd get a waiver I think, especially since it was so long ago with in assuming no trouble since then. and it goes in your favour that the Canadian embassy have already reviewed everything and approved you, the American embassy must have similar criteria.

1478. Posted by amenicycinema (Budding Member 22 posts) 14w

Tim - Belfast embassy usually seems to have appointments available sooner than london. you could go ahead and pay the appointment fee to find out what's available, even if you don't have your paperwork yet you can pick a date optimistically then reschedule it easily online if you need more time. definitely a good idea to get all your police paperwork, I took mine (also marijuana but was arrested in america) and they seemed happy I was so organised at the appointment. if you have any questions about the process etc I can help as I've been through it twice now!

1479. Posted by travelman99 (Full Member 150 posts) 14w

HinkeyD

Thanks for telling us your story, and congratulations on your 5 year waiver. I'd like to make it clear to anyone else reading this that getting a 5 year straight up is very rare - I believe that due to the time between your "crimes" and the insignificant nature, you were probably seen as no risk. The US government usually sees a 5 year rehabilitation period for CIMT, and 15 year for total rehabilitation for other crimes.

However, I should also mention that unless you're caught with more than 30grams of cannabis, you will still be eligible for a Visa. So in your case Hinkey, I'm not sure why they didn't supply this to you. Did you say you had another convictions?

Kind regards

1480. Posted by hinkyd (Budding Member 4 posts) 14w

Tim – the DS160 does ask for details of convictions “Have you ever been arrested or convicted for any offense or crime, even though subject of a pardon, amnesty or other similar action. Explain” AND “ Have you ever violated or engaged in a conspiracy to violate any law relating to controlled substances”. I waited till I’d got my ACRO before I completed this, in the hopes that the damage bit may not show but it did! I wanted to ensure the ACRO and DS160 had the same info on them.

There were a choice of dates and times at the point of booking and definitely less of a wait for Belfast. I don’t think you’d get a London appointment for the end of October now, unless it was a cancellation. When I last changed my appointment 2 weeks ago, they were only available from mid-October then. When I first booked my appointment, there was about 4 week wait for Belfast but then cancellations do come up, more for Belfast than London. To be honest, I’d get the forms done and submitted as soon as you can but go ahead get that appointment booked straight away, like amenicycinema says. I didn’t know I could do this, so lost a couple of weeks waiting for the ACRO to come back.

The lady took my word for the amount and the circumstances surrounding why I had it.

I also went suited and booted for the appointment.

travelman99 – I haven’t got the 5 year waiver yet. I’ll believe it when I see it! And I did have other convictions – broke a pane in a bus shelter at 17,and carrying an offensive weapon at the same time as the cannabis charge. But they did not seem bothered by those at all and did not ask me about them. From all I have read here and on other sites, there does seem to be no real rhyme nor reason as to who gets what. After reading some posts I was left thinking Yayy, they’ll roll out the red carpet and after others that I may as well not bother. I’d have been much happier with a Visa, especially as I had the chance of a US holiday in November, but at least they haven’t said I’m never to darken their doorstep again. It is a shame you can’t question their decision!!