Wanting to visit USA from UK with criminal record

Travel Forums North America Wanting to visit USA from UK with criminal record

1. Posted by Gizmodog (First Time Poster 1 posts) 18w Star this if you like it!

Hi all,

I am hoping to be able to visit the USA in the future, however I have a criminal conviction for robbery in 1996 , I am a UK resident, born here in 1973 , I was young and daft and in with the wrong crowd, I was the lookout on a shop robbery and recived 3yrs 9 months , I served 22 & half months out of that ...

I have heard that you can't get in to America with a criminal conviction, but I was hoping someone could be able to tell me if there's a way of getting around this , I am planning on staying there for about 2 months....

Thank you

Posts 2 & 3 were removed by moderators
4. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 2391 posts) 18w 1 Star this if you like it!

>you can't get in to America with a criminal conviction,

It isn't a straightforward yes/no situation.

>I was hoping someone could be able to tell me if there's a way of getting around this

There is. Read on.

You obviously can't get an ESTA unless you lie on the question 'Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a crime that resulted in serious damage to property, or serious harm to another person or government authority?' . Lying on the ESTA is a serious criminal offence in the US. It can result in refusal of entry and barring of future entry, in a fine or imprisonment. I do not advise you to lie on the ESTA.

If an ESTA is not possible all UK citizens must get a visa to enter the US. People who have convictions for crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT) cannot be granted a visa without first obtaining a 'waiver of ineligibility'. CIMT is a rather vague US legal concept which covers many crimes. You can see a list of CIMT on this link but the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) makes the final decision based on all the details of a specific case. https://hub.unlock.org.uk/knowledgebase/identifying-whether-my-offence-is-a-crime-involving-moral-turpitude-cimt/

You were convicted of robbery, which is a CIMT, and you also served a substantial prison sentence.

You should apply for a visa either at the London US Embassy or the Belfast US consulate (links below). You'll need to gather paperwork relating to your criminal record (a police ACRO certificate and form VCU1......info on links) and attend an interview. It is the the interviewing officer who will decide whether to recommend you for a waiver so how you present yourself and relate to him/her is very important. The waiver process is lengthy (usually 6-8 months via London, 2-3 months via Belfast) though it may be quicker because Covid has resulted in fewer applications. If the waiver is granted you will be granted a visa, which may or may not be of the usual 10 year validity.

Your crime happened over 10 years ago, which is a big advantage. The interviewing officer will want to be convinced that you haven't been involved in any criminal activity since that time, that you are a law-abiding citizen who has steady employment and, ideally, a family and home base. They want to be sure that you won't be involved in crime during your visit, that you can support yourself financially during your stay and that you have compelling reasons to return to the UK. You can take extra paperwork with you (e.g. character references from your boss) but it is up to the officer whether he/she wants to look at them.

At your interview it is important to dress appropriately (i.e. not scruffy), remain courteous at all times and answer all questions honestly.

There is no way anyone anywhere can tell you the chances (decisions are based on all the details of an individual, past and present) but, assuming everything has been ok since you were released from prison, I think you have a good chance of being granted a waiver. I am not a US border officer: my opinion is formed from many years of experience.

As I said, it's a lengthy process so I'd urge you to get started as soon as possible.



This site (a charity which advises UK ex-prisoners) may also be helpful:


Good luck!

[ Edit: Edited on 16 Dec 2020, 08:34 GMT by leics2 ]

5. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 3053 posts) 18w Star this if you like it!

There is a long running post for this on this forum:


6. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2264 posts) 18w Star this if you like it!

You've had excellent technical advice from Leics2 above.

For many people, the hoops you have to jump through put the USA on the "too hard" pile. Depending what you want to see and do there, it's worth looking at the alternatives. If it's sunshine in Florida, you could look at Mexico instead, for instance. Disney theme parks are available elsewhere. Europe has better cities to see. Or Aus and NZ make great road trips.

Over the years we've seen some people chancing it, being untruthful on their ESTA application and getting away with it. But there are some pitfalls to this that you should consider: if you get caught out, it's major. And having lied once, your lie is in the system, so give up all hope of ever working there or if they ever remove the ESTA and you need to get a visa for whatever reason, your lie will be uncovered by the more thorough checks.

7. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 2391 posts) 18w Star this if you like it!


Imo, it's better if a new thread is started because visa, visa processing, ESTA questions, entry procedures etc change remarkably often. A great deal of that long-running thread is now out-of-date and/or irrelevant, which is why I don't refer people to it. However, the SEO for that thread is excellent because there are many, many UK citizens who have criminal records and want to visit the US (very often for family package hols at Disneyworld etc). It's high on the first page of results if UK citizens google e.g. 'visit us criminal record' and thus brings clicks to TP. :-)

[ Edit: Edited on 16 Dec 2020, 14:03 GMT by leics2 ]

Post 8 was removed by a moderator