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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

1821. Posted by leics2 (Respected Member 331 posts) 23w Star this if you like it!

Thank you....and do please let us know how he gets on.

1822. Posted by travelman99 (Respected Member 211 posts) 23w Star this if you like it!

Hi all

As a long term contributor to this thread I want to share my experience of gaining access to America.

I recently got invited to fly to the US for business. I have a 5 year old caution for “attempt to possess a controlled substance” - basically I told a copper when drunk that I tried to buy drugs, I didn’t even have anyway on me. I initially had every intention of going down the visa route once my caution was filtered. However, the trip was sprung on me quickly, and I wouldn’t have had time to apply. Not attending this trip wasn’t an option.

I therefore ticked no on my ESTA.

Anyway after a pretty boozey flight over with my colleagues in business class, we arrived to a nearly empty airport terminal. I headed up to the TSA agent - with 5 years of brutal anxiety about this very moment - I was living my Waterloo moment.

When I reached the desk, I was simply asked what I’m doing in the USA, who I work for and when I’m leaving. I scanned my finger prints, had a photo taken, and was politely ushered through.

Almost a bit of an anti-climax. Visions of being dragged into a cell in the USA have haunted me for years.

Anyway, for those with minor cautions or convictions, I hope this helps put your mind at rest if you tick the No option.

1823. Posted by leics2 (Respected Member 331 posts) 23w Star this if you like it!

As a regular flyer to the US, using several different airports, I'm very aware that US border officers vary hugely in their attitude and in how many and what questions they ask. I (ESTA, no criminal record) never know how I'll be treated on arrival: sometimes I'm just asked a couple of questions, sometimes quite a few.

About 10 years ago a close friend accepted a police caution for (I think) 'offensive behaviour' during a political demonstration (she said she'd been grabbed round the neck by a burly officer and the alleged 'offensive behaviour' was a result of this action). As she intended to work in the US in future, she later (rightly imo) decided to take the visa route rather than lie on the ESTA. She encountered no problems at all, with the officer who dealt with her even expressing his understanding of both why she demonstrated and why she reacted as she did. Her visa was granted immediately.

Accepting a police caution is an admission of guilt and, rightly or wrongly, is treated by the US as a conviction (and is specifically mentioned on the US/UK embassy site). Thus the individual is ineligible for an ESTA. For minor offences (i.e. those not deemed CIMT) it's very likely that a waiver of ineligibility won't be required and a visa will be granted immediately.

The decision about whether to lie on the ESTA can only ever be taken by the individual. Whilst the chance of encountering difficulties on arrival do seem very slim, the experiences of others cannot and should not be taken as absolute guidelines for all....and imo if there is any chance of wanting a US visa in future it's certainly not a good idea to lie on an ESTA.

[ Edit: Edited on 06-Feb-2018, at 00:59 by leics2 ]

1824. Posted by travelman99 (Respected Member 211 posts) 23w Star this if you like it!

Your friend didn’t need to apply for a Visa as her crime wasn’t a CIMT. And, cautions aren’t seen as convictions in US law as it isn’t a punishment applied by a court of law. It means that even celebs who have admitted to things on TV can have trouble visiting the US.

Fundamentally it doesn’t sit right with me giving away personal information to other countries about minor crimes that haven’t resulted in a conviction in an accepted court of law.

Personal choice though.

1825. Posted by leics2 (Respected Member 331 posts) 23w Star this if you like it!

>Personal choice though.

Exactly so.

UK police cautions form part of a criminal record if the offence is recordable. Accepting a caution is legally regarded as an admission of guilt.

http://hub.unlock.org.uk/knowledgebase/recordable-offences-2/

1826. Posted by Michelleleej (Budding Member 27 posts) 23w Star this if you like it!

Update, had interview at embassy and have been referred for waiver of illegibility. They have said the wait is a solid 4-6 months. We are due to go 4 days short if 5 months. I don’t know what the process is if he gets an email to say he’s been granted a visa and then how long it takes but I would think time is not on our side. We thought about changing the dates we go to September but just because he’s been referred for one I assume does not mean he will even be granted one. Has anyone had experience of this happening? Or BA said we can change the destination and pay the extra. This in itself is a pain because where is hot and dry in July that’s long haul!? Short haul not an option with our ticket type.

1827. Posted by leics2 (Respected Member 331 posts) 23w Star this if you like it!

I'm pleased your husband was offered the chance of a waiver of ineligibility.

> just because he’s been referred for one I assume does not mean he will even be granted one

You're right but if there was absolutely no chance of being granted one the officer wouldn't have suggested it...so take the suggestion as a positive and keep your fingers crossed.

As I understand it, once he gets the email he sends in his passport for the visa. Whether he'll be able to take it to the Embassy for immediate application of the visa I do not know, though I doubt it. No doubt the email will give full details of the process.

> where is hot and dry in July that’s long haul!?

Mexico? Domenican Republic? Cuba? Bermuda?

[ Edit: Edited on 08-Feb-2018, at 10:37 by leics2 ]

1828. Posted by Sarahharp1990 (Budding Member 4 posts) 23w Star this if you like it!

Hi does anyone know what happens if you do go over on a criminal record and you get pulled out for questions and they then bring up your criminal record from the uk, what happens then?
Does said person get arrested and kept in that country to serve a prison sentence?
Or do they get held (if so is it hours/days/weeks) whilst being questioned....
I’ve seen people saying about people being sent back on the next flight but is it just that straight forward? A friend of mine is going and he’s super worried of what could happen “if” they take him to one side and question him and then get details from the uk?
He just doesn’t want to be in an American jail for a few months years?? Is this possible? Thanks

1829. Posted by Moralturptide (Budding Member 14 posts) 23w Star this if you like it!

Leics,
Please refrain from telling people here to record every conviction on the ESTA form, I've told you countless times its incorrect and since they dont even ask you that on the VWP, its just very confusing. It does with drugs though.
If you dont believe me by all means show me the question or where you can state this on the form.

What I am curious about, is do the border guys at the airport record your spoken answers anywhere?
It all seems to me very casual or off the cuff.
Travelman mentioned that when he went to the US he want asked a thing, my recollection of 12 months ago (could be wrong) was they DID ask about my convictions at the airport and when i answered gave a 'hmmm' response then let me through.

I often wonder if caught for something and faced with a question in future like 'why didnt you declare this last time to a border agent' you could say 'he never asked'.
I see a couple of scenarios where that would work to someones benefit.

1830. Posted by leics2 (Respected Member 331 posts) 23w Star this if you like it!

> Does said person get arrested and kept in that country to serve a prison sentence?
Or do they get held (if so is it hours/days/weeks) whilst being questioned....

What happens always depends on the individual case. Having said that, I suspect that the vast majority of those who are denied entry are simply held at the airport and then sent back on the next available flight (with the airline on which they arrived).

Moralturpitude: I do not tell people what to do. It is not your role to tell me, or anyone else on this forum, how to reply to questions.

I answer questions with facts, give relevant links where appropriate and, occasionally, I will also give my own opinion. It is then up to the individual to make his/her own decision.

Can I suggest you do the same? It's best to focus on the content of your own replies rather than making attacks on others. Taking that approach will make any advice you give appear much more trustworthy. :-)

[ Edit: Edited on 09-Feb-2018, at 00:31 by leics2 ]