ESTA applications and having a criminal history

This is Stephanie of IMS.

For citizens of countries in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), applying for a United States tourist visa is usually a simple and straightforward process. Those who wish to travel to the U.S. without a visa must complete a mandatory online application called the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, more commonly known as ESTA. After paying a one-time fee of $14, an approved ESTA status is valid for up to two years. However, having a criminal record can complicate this process, as ESTA cannot be used and a visa for travel (B visa) must be used instead.

One of the baselines for being approved for a United States visa is the ability to prove “good moral character” (GMC). In immigration terms, this can include honesty, trustworthiness, respect for the law and others, and intention to uphold the law while in the U.S. Consular officers at the Embassy will judge your application partially based on these standards, but every case is different, and even the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does not offer a specific list of past convictions that will or won’t cause an application to be denied. For example, the CBP says that although the U.S. does not deny entry to applicants with a “Driving Under the Influence” (DUI) conviction, if there are multiple convictions on one’s record, or other misdemeanors and crimes, applicants may be denied entry. (link)

Here at IMS, we have an 88% success rate in receiving tourist visas for applicants who have been denied ESTA, including those with previous convictions. For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us.