Travelling to US with a criminal record in the UK

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

2521. Posted by Fireant (Budding Member 8 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Hello
I'm new here and have found this website via Google. But have a few questions and don't know what to do. 

Basically my girlfriend is in America and I am in England. She was born over there and I was born over here. I've never visited the US though and she's asked me if I'd like to go over and spend Christmas with her, I've no family so I thought this would be a nice idea. I'd get to see her for a couple of weeks which would be brilliant. 
After looking at things to do in the US when I visit here, I read somewhere else that those with minor convictions I would not be allowed into the country. 
So due to this, I thought I'd join here and try and find out if this is correct. 

The convictions I have are the following: - 

My first ever time in trouble was when I was 21 on the actual night of my 21st birthday. This was in the year 1999 My Dad had just died almost a year before and my Mother had left the family before that happened. It was pretty hard and I had no other family. I inherited a business, was under the doctor for stress and basically was a bit of a mess.
That night I was out with friends and was extreamly drunk, I decided to go home. This was in 1999. Anyway I was in a taxi and some other guys tried to get in. The taxi driver said he wasn't taking everyone. He reached over and slammed the door, which my leg was caught and was still outside the vehicle at this point. It resulted in a deep cut, I hit him once and then he got a policeman who arrested me and charged me with common assault and criminal damage which I've no idea why I got charged with that as I didn't do anything else.

​​​​​It resulted in me getting a £250 fine and some community service. That was 20 years ago. My solicitor suggested it was self defence but I ended up pleading guilty to it.

​​​​​​Later in 2010 /11 I was punched off a man whilst I was at a friend's house, I couldn't leave as he was blocking the door. So I called the police. Anyway the police came, asked me if I wanted to press charges, I said I didn't, I just wanted to get my belongings and leave. They asked me to sit down and went to chat to the man and his wife. I was dating his wife's daughter at the time and we was at her house where I'd been working, her parents were heavy drinkers, anyway when the police arrived his wife and him said I'd assaulted him and he never laid a finger on me. Which was untrue. As it was two against one, I was arrested and charged with common assault. 
I went to court and lost, and therefore convicted. My solicitor advised me to appeal. So I did. Their story didn't match up in court and I still managed to lose that case too. 
That was the end of that. I had to pay court costs and carry out community service, but the doctor at the time said I was ill with the stress of it all and was not leaving the house much which resulted in me losing my business. So it was reduced to a fine instead with no community service.

Then in 2014, I began working at a hotel as the maintenance manager. Overseeing contractors and refurbishing various parts of the hotel myself. The manager there was always trying to cut expenditure by replacing parts with cheaper alternatives that were not up to spec, having work carried out 
​​​​​Without paying the contractors and leaving me to deal with the consequences, anyway as part of my contract of employment he agreed to have a meeting with me after six months of work there about giving me a pay rise. Off the record he asked me to put in more hours to ensure the rooms were up to spec, all repairs were done and therefore reduce the costs of contractors. So my work load increased from around 40 hours a week to about 75 hours a week. Without the extra hours being paid for. As I was promised a pay rise after the first six months. 

After six months I finally had this meeting and he tells me that he couldn't afford to give me a pay rise, but thanks for the extra time I'd put in. I was even the one sourcing and paying got some materials over this time too, some of which he'd have me buy from ebay and not pay me back for. 
So stupidly I took the law into my own hands and ordered extra light bulbs on account and sold them to get some of my money back. (about £75 I recovered). Obviously I was caught and he contacted the police. Which I admitted to everything and told them the full story. They did say they understood my reasons but I shouldn't of taken the law into my own hands. Which was stupid I know. So I was charged with theft of employer and ordered to pay court costs and carry out community service. 
That was in 2014 and the last time I ever got into any trouble. 
Since then I have re-started my Dad's business which I have worked very hard to do, after having anxiety issues and panic attacks over all the problems in my life prior, where I admit I messed up. But now I'm finally doing well. 
Which brings me to the current situation. 

My girlfriend is over in America and I am in England. She has asked me to go over for Christmas and meet the rest of her family. But people have said I'd need to fill in a form and just to tick no on everything, about being arrested in the past etc. This would mean I am lying and I don't want to do that. I've never lied and I'm told that being honest this time would get me banned from the country and therfore from seeing her. We both love each other and this relationship I value more than anything.

If we were to marry it would likely mean me moving over there, as much as she loves the UK, she has family over there and I don't have family over here. So I couldn't expect her to leave them and give up her career and everything to be with me. 

I have a good job, a business which I have put a lot of my savings and time into and do a lot of work for elderly, disabled people and charity. I have good cahracter references and apart from what I've explained above, I have never been in any other trouble. 

Please could you advise me of what I'd need to do to be able to go and see her with the possibility of maybe moving over there to be with her in a couple of years perhaps? Obviously we'd get married and have a family etc. Our ages are myself 40 and her being 34. 

Any help much appreciated and apologies for the long post. I just thought it necessary to explain things in detail. 

​​​​​​​Thankyou 

2522. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 1690 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

If you lie in order to get an ESTA you are probably ruling out ever being able to move there, since for a residence visa they'd dig deeper and uncover the lie.

So you'd need to apply for a visa, and your convictions make you ineligible, so you'd have to then apply for a "waiver of ineligibility".

They look very unfavourably on convictions. Yours are quite recent too. No-one can say for certain but I think your chances are slim. Sorry.

2523. Posted by Mara1992 (First Time Poster 1 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Hi guys,

I visited this forum a couple of times before I travelled to the US recently and I just wanted to share my experience in case it helps someone else. I recieved a caution around about 8 years ago for assault (drunken teenage years which have since long passed), which is classified as battery. No further action was taken but I did spend a night in a police cell. Since then I've had no further dealings with the police, and I don't plan to!

I was worried about flying into JFK for a holiday and filled out the ESTA form as per my knowledge at the time. It asked if I had been arrested or faced conviction for 'serious assault', and I took the view that I hadn't, which, truthfully, it wasn't. It was only later that I read that I 'should' declare all criminal records, caution or not! I took the view that I had answered the ESTA correctly and truthfully, and would not apply for a visa. Of course I was really nervous, having read about people who have had cautions and 'denied entry'. This was about 4 months before I flew.

I land at border control, expecting the worst. I had my ESTA print out with me. Walk up to the counter with the CBP officer, he looks at my print out, takes my finger prints, asks me for the address where I was staying, asks what I'm doing in the US, and sends me on my merry way. No questions about my ESTA. No hard grilling. Normal passport control stuff. I did dress perhaps a bit more smartly than I would have done, but I doubt it made a difference - he was relaxed and normal, and so was I.

[ Edit: Edited on 11-Aug-2019, 15:51 GMT by Mara1992 ]

2524. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 878 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

I read somewhere else that those with minor convictions I would not be allowed into the country.

That isn't the case.

Andy is right that if you lie on the ESTA your lie will be uncovered if you ever apply for a visa. So if there's any chance you might want to live or work in the US in future don't even consider lying.

For now you should apply for a normal tourist visa via London or Belfast (your choice...the process is the same for both). You'll go for an interview and, as Andy says, you may be recommended for a 'waiver of ineligibility' by the interviewing officer. If that waiver is granted (processing time is 6-8 months via London, 3-4 months via Belfast) you'll get a visa.

Here's the official site which tells you how to apply:

https://uk.usembassy.gov/visas/nonimmigrant-visas/

No-one here or anywhere else can tell you the chances of being recommended for a waiver. Decisions are made on an individual basis, taking into consideration all the details of your past and present circumstances plus how you present yourself at interview (I don't mean what you're wearing).

The crimes you committed involve moral turpitude (a rather nebulous US legal concept) and, although not numerous, the most recent took place only 5 years ago. Given the fact that your girlfriend is a US citizen and you want to marry, you'll also need to convince the interviewing officer that you have strong ties in the UK which mean you fully intend to return after your visit.

If you can overcome those hurdles and the officer recommends you for a waiver I think the chances of you eventually getting a visa are good, though I doubt you'll get it in time for Christmas (so don't book anything if you're recommended for a waiver...wait for them to ask you to send your passport). How long a visa lasts depends on the US authorities: they may grant a visa for any length of time from a few months to the full 'normal' 10 years. It is my understanding that visas-with-waivers are unlikely to be granted for the full 10 years.

I wish you the best of luck with your application.

[ Edit: Edited on 11-Aug-2019, 15:58 GMT by leics2 ]

2525. Posted by LondonAlb (Budding Member 13 posts) 4d Star this if you like it!

So have bitten the bullet and booked an appointment at the Belfast consulate. Police certificate came back with 15 convictions mostly as a teenager ranging from shoplifting, criminal damage and theft. As well as a 18 month stint in a youth offenders. 6 years since my last arrest which I know is probably too soon given the amount of arrests. I am fully expecting a refusal but would like any recommendations for supporting documents to help the chances of a waiver. I've written a statement and so has my wife and my mother in law explaining the fact I was in a children's home and unfortunelty got involved with the wrong kids etc and now a changed man. I've also got letters from my work which I've been with for 5 years. Is there anything else I can provide to help my case?

2526. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 878 posts) 4d Star this if you like it!

>would like any recommendations for supporting documents to help the chances of a waiver.

I'm sorry if the following sounds a bit harsh but it's best to be prepared:

It's very possible that the interviewing officer won't be interested in seeing any supporting documents at all (other than, perhaps, proof of long-term employment, of your financial stability and of any charity or volunteer work you do). When it comes to recommending you for a waiver of ineligibility the only things that really matter are a) the details of your past criminal record and b) the officer's opinion about whether you are likely to commit further crimes. Why you committed the offences isn't really relevant (nor it is something which can be fact-checked) although, if the officer does ask for more background info, you'll be able to explain. I'm sure you understand why statements from yourself, your wife and your mother-in-law are unlikely to carry any weight and are thus unlikely to be considered. US visa interviews are not, and are not intended to be, lengthy processes.

How you present yourself at interview is important. Get there on time, dress smartly, be polite and courteous throughout, answer the questions honestly and don't be rude or get annoyed even if you are turned down on the day.

None of us are privy to the internal guidelines and regulations under which US border officers work, so no-one here or anywhere else can tell you the chances of you being recommended for a waiver. As each case is decided on an individual basis the experiences of others cannot give you any valid indication of what your outcome will be. As you say, your last offence took place quite recently and that will be a factor in making the decision.

I do wish you the best of luck for your interview. Please come back and let us know how you got on.

[ Edit: Edited on 17-Aug-2019, 16:01 GMT by leics2 ]

2527. Posted by highlandspring (Budding Member 16 posts) 4d Star this if you like it!

Some data is shared via Interpol, but as mentioned only more serious offences and individuals on a "watch list"

2528. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 878 posts) 4d Star this if you like it!

None of us know exactly what information is shared, between whom and under what circumstances.

Many people with criminal records choose to lie on the ESTA. That is their choice, of course, but they should do so in the knowledge of the potential issues. Lying once of course means that they must continue to lie on future ESTAs. An ESTA lie will be exposed in any visa application.

  • Lying on the ESTA is potentially a US criminal offence which may well come to light if there is any adverse contact with US (or Canadian) police.
  • If anyone wants a US visa for work or residency purposes, any ESTA lie will be exposed and the chances of being granted a visa substantially reduced.
  • The US can remove the ESTA at any time, for UK or any/all other eligible citizenships. There is no guarantee that the ESTA visa waiver will continue. Again, any previous lie on the ESTA will be exposed on visa application.

Personally, I would never advocate lying in any visa or visa waiver circumstances and I applaud the honesty and sense of personal responsibility of those with criminal records who applt for a visa.

[ Edit: Edited on 17-Aug-2019, 18:03 GMT by leics2 ]

2529. Posted by LondonAlb (Budding Member 13 posts) 4d Star this if you like it!

Quoting leics2

>would like any recommendations for supporting documents to help the chances of a waiver.

I'm sorry if the following sounds a bit harsh but it's best to be prepared:

It's very possible that the interviewing officer won't be interested in seeing any supporting documents at all (other than, perhaps, proof of long-term employment, of your financial stability and of any charity or volunteer work you do). When it comes to recommending you for a waiver of ineligibility the only things that really matter are a) the details of your past criminal record and b) the officer's opinion about whether you are likely to commit further crimes. Why you committed the offences isn't really relevant (nor it is something which can be fact-checked) although, if the officer does ask for more background info, you'll be able to explain. I'm sure you understand why statements from yourself, your wife and your mother-in-law are unlikely to carry any weight and are thus unlikely to be considered. US visa interviews are not, and are not intended to be, lengthy processes.

How you present yourself at interview is important. Get there on time, dress smartly, be polite and courteous throughout, answer the questions honestly and don't be rude or get annoyed even if you are turned down on the day.

None of us are privy to the internal guidelines and regulations under which US border officers work, so no-one here or anywhere else can tell you the chances of you being recommended for a waiver. As each case is decided on an individual basis the experiences of others cannot give you any valid indication of what your outcome will be. As you say, your last offence took place quite recently and that will be a factor in making the decision.

I do wish you the best of luck for your interview. Please come back and let us know how you got on.

Thanks for responding. Did they ask you for any supporting documents? I say this because on quite a few sites it has been brought up and people felt unprepared. Also on the VCU 1 form it asks for an explanation and I am struggling to do so in only a couple of lines.

2530. Posted by Fireant (Budding Member 8 posts) 4d Star this if you like it!

I'd be interested in hearing if anyone has ever gotten a visa wavier or even one through the petty crimes excemption. I've read a lot online about people asking if they would get one or not, but haven't come across any comments where I remember people being successful or not.