Visa help!

Travel Forums North America Visa help!

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1. Posted by Dukesofhazard (First Time Poster 1 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

Hi,

After what seems like an eternity of being in lockdown, my family and I have bitten the bullet and booked to take our families to Disney world next august. (2022)

It hadn’t even occurred to me when we were book that back in 2012 I received a suspended sentence for failure to notify change in circumstances. I am able to even to travel to America?!

I have read so many conflicting stories where people with convictions have just travelled with an ESTA and others have obtained visas.
I’d be really grateful for any help on this very confusing matter.

I am a uk citizen and will be travelling with 18 members of my family who will all be applying for an ESTA.
Liz

[ Edit: Edited on 17 Apr 2021, 08:34 GMT by Dukesofhazard ]

2. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 2524 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

>I am able to even to travel to America?!

You were charged, convicted of and sentenced for failure to notify a change of circumstances, an offence which relates to claiming state benefits. In simple terms, you were found guilty of receiving benefits to which you were not entitled. Whether intentional or not, that can be considered fraud.

The US has a rather vague legal concept of 'crimes involving moral turpitude' (CIMT). A conviction for a CIMT is an immediate bar to entry but this can be changed with a 'waiver of ineligibility'. Visa interviewing officers can recommend applicants for that waiver which, if granted, allows them to be given a visa.

Fraud...including benefit fraud.... is a CIMT.

Your offence and conviction were fairly recent.

The ESTA question asks: Have you ever been arrested or convicted for a crime that resulted in serious damage to property, or serious harm to another person or government authority? That wording is rather vague but it definitely includes all CIMT.

Some people (often those with criminal records) suggest lying and just ticking the 'No' box on the ESTA application. Many will tell you they've been to the US and encountered no problems. Whilst it is true that the US does not have automatic access to UK criminal records (though they can request and receive information) it's worth thinking about the following points before you make a decision:

1. Making a false declaration on an ESTA is a serious US criminal offence.

2. If you make a false ESTA declaration once you must continue to do so every time you want an ESTA (they last 2 years), thus making any potential issues worse.

3. As in most countries, sometimes random people are taken aside at US border control for 'secondary questioning'. Would you be comfortable if that happened to you?

4. If you have any contact with US police during your trip it is theoretically possible that your record will come to light.

5. There is no guarantee that US ESTAs for UK citizens will be available forever nor that they will remain in the form they are now. If you ever wish/need to apply for a US visa in future your previous false ESTA declaration/s *will* come to light and will greatly complicate matters. It is possible that you won't be allowed to enter the US at all.

Some people do happily lie on their ESTA and just take the risk. But, given the facts I've listed above, I would strongly advise you to apply for a US tourist visa. Although it costs more and you'll have to attend an interview in London (or Belfast) it is the correct thing to do and will also put your mind at rest. It's possible that you'll be granted a visa on the day but if the interviewing officer decides that your offence is a CIMO, he/she will decide whether to recommend you for a waiver of ineligibility. If that recommendation is made a visa will almost certainly be granted (either for the normal full 10 years or for a shorter period) but the waiver process does take several months.

There is of course a Covid backlog of visa applications but if you apply now you have plenty of time for your visa (and any necessary waiver) to be processed well before you actually need it. You can apply via the US Embassy in London or the US Consulate in Belfast. The official US embassy page gives you all the details about how to begin the process:

https://uk.usembassy.gov/visas/tourism-visitor/how-to-apply/

Dress respectably, remain courteous and polite at all times and answer the interviewing officers questions openly and honestly (they're trained to know if people are lying or being evasive).

Good luck!

[ Edit: Edited on 17 Apr 2021, 13:31 GMT by leics2 ]

Post 3 was removed by a moderator