Who Is Inadmissible to the United States? Staff Profile Picture
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Patricia Hernandez Profile Picture
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The United States, renowned as a melting pot of cultures and a land of opportunity, has long been a sought-after destination for individuals worldwide. According to the Migration Policy Institute, as of 2021, immigrants comprised 13.6 percent of the total U.S. population. However, only some are granted entry into the country. Inadmissibility, based on various grounds established by the Immigration and Nationality Act (U.S. immigration law), can pose a significant hurdle for aspiring immigrants. Thankfully, there are provisions in place that allow individuals otherwise deemed inadmissible to request a waiver, offering a pathway to overcoming these challenges. 

Understanding the scope of inadmissibility and the process to request a waiver is crucial for individuals navigating the complex immigration landscape. This article explores who may be considered inadmissible to the United States, delving into the steps and considerations involved in requesting a waiver to provide clarity and guidance. 

What Is Inadmissibility?

Inadmissibility means that a foreign individual is not eligible to enter or remain in the United States. If a person is deemed inadmissible, they do not meet the criteria or requirements set forth by U.S. immigration laws, and as a result, may be denied admission, or their immigration status could be revoked. 

What Happens if I am Deemed Inadmissible?

If you are deemed inadmissible, you may be denied entry at a port of entry, including airports and land border crossings. If you are already in the United States, you may be subject to removal proceedings and face deportation. Some individuals can avoid these outcomes by securing waivers or other forms of relief from inadmissibility, depending on the specific grounds and circumstances involved. 

Grounds for Inadmissibility to the United States

There are various grounds for inadmissibility under U.S. immigration law, and if any of these grounds apply to you, you may be denied entry or have your visa application denied. The grounds for inadmissibility are outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act and include the following: 

Medical Grounds

Medical or health-related grounds for inadmissibility to the United States are primarily concerned with protecting public health and preventing the spread of certain infectious diseases. These grounds are based on the premise that certain conditions pose a risk to the population, and people who have or may have these diseases may be denied entry. For example, individuals with communicable diseases, such as active cases of tuberculosis and syphilis, are in infectious stages. In certain circumstances, individuals who are otherwise inadmissible due to health-related grounds may be eligible for a waiver if they demonstrate a low risk of transmitting the disease or the disease is in an inactive state.

Inadmissibility on these grounds can also apply to individuals who fail to present documentation of required vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists recommended vaccinations for various immigrant groups. 

Criminal Grounds

Criminal grounds for inadmissibility to the United States pertain to individuals with certain criminal convictions or involvement in illegal activities. These grounds are aimed at protecting public safety and national security. These crimes include the following:

  • Crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT): Individuals who have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude may be deemed inadmissible. Moral turpitude refers to conduct that is considered morally reprehensible and involves elements such as fraud, theft, or violence. 

  • Drug offenses: Individuals convicted of controlled substance violations, including drug trafficking or drug-related crimes, can be found inadmissible. This includes offenses committed both within and outside the United States.

  • Aggravated felonies: Certain serious crimes, as defined by U.S. immigration law, are categorized as aggravated felonies. Convictions for aggravated felonies can lead to inadmissibility. This list of offenses that apply is extensive and includes crimes such as murder, rape, trafficking in firearms or explosives, and certain offenses involving fraud or theft. 

  • Multiple criminal convictions: People with numerous convictions, where the total sentence of confinement exceeds five years, may be deemed inadmissible. This includes cumulative sentences from separate offenses.

  • Terrorism and national security: Involvement of affiliation with terrorist organizations or engaging in activities that threaten national security can result in inadmissibility.

Some exceptions and waivers are available for certain criminal grounds of inadmissibility, depending on the specific circumstances and the visa category. The availability of waivers and the criteria for eligibility may vary, so it’s advisable to consult with an immigration attorney or refer to official government sources for accurate and up-to-date information.

Security Grounds

Individuals deemed to pose a threat to the security and safety of the country may be inadmissible based on security grounds. These grounds protect national security and prevent people with affiliations or involvement in certain activities from entering or remaining in the United States. This can include the following:

  • Terrorism

  • Espionage 

  • Sabotage

  • Genocide

  • Drug trafficking 

  • Human smuggling

If an individual convicted of these offenses can prove that they pose no danger to the security or welfare of the United States and that their admission would not be contrary to the public interest, they may be eligible for a waiver. Each waiver request is evaluated individually, considering factors such as the nature and seriousness of the security concern, the individual's ties to the United States, and the potential risk to national security.

Immigration Violations

Individuals who have violated immigration laws or regulations may be denied entry or immigration benefits based on those violations. These grounds are established to maintain the integrity of the immigration system and ensure compliance with immigration laws. 

Under U.S. immigration law, several immigration-related violations can result in a determination of inadmissibility. These grounds are defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and include the following:

  • Unlawful presence exceeding 180 days

  • Prior removals or deportations 

  • Immigration fraud or misrepresentation 

  • Smuggling of undocumented immigrants

  • Document fraud, including passports and visas

  • Failure to attend removal proceedings

Some of these immigration violations may be subject to waivers or exemptions in certain circumstances. For example, individuals with prior removals or deportations may be eligible for waivers if they demonstrate that their re-entry would not be contrary to the public interest. 

Public Charge Grounds

Public charge" refers to a ground of inadmissibility to the United States based on an individual's likelihood of becoming primarily dependent on the government for financial support. It is intended to ensure that immigrants coming to the United States can support themselves financially and not rely on public assistance programs. Some key factors that immigration authorities consider when assessing the likelihood of public charge include:

  • Prior receipt of public benefits

  • Age, health, and family status 

  • Education level and skill set

  • Affidavit of Support

The concept of public charge is primarily applied during the immigration process when an individual is seeking to obtain a visa to enter the United States or when they are applying for an adjustment of status to get a green card. However, the public charge does not apply to all immigration categories, and specific individuals, such as refugees and those who have claimed asylum, are exempt from this ground of inadmissibility.

Are There Exceptions to Inadmissibility?

Yes, there are exceptions to inadmissibility in certain circumstances. These exceptions allow individuals who would otherwise be ineligible for entry or immigration benefits to request an exception or waiver based on specific criteria or conditions. However, it is essential to note that exceptions and waivers are generally granted on a discretionary basis, and not all cases will qualify for an exception. 

The availability and eligibility for exceptions to inadmissibility will vary case by case. Some common examples include the following:

  • Waivers for certain grounds of inadmissibility, including releases for unlawful presence, prior removal or deportation, certain criminal activities, fraud or misrepresentation, and certain health-related grounds

  • Humanitarian waivers for individuals facing persecution or extreme hardship 

  • Waivers for family-based immigration when it can be demonstrated that the denial of admission would result in extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent, or child

  • Waivers based on employment or business interests, which are often available based on the individual’s qualifications, skills, contributions to the economy

How to File an Inadmissibility Waiver

Waivers offer exceptions for certain individuals deemed inadmissible to the United States. Each case is assessed individually, considering factors like the nature of the inadmissibility and ties to the U.S. Here are the steps to file an inadmissibility waiver:

1. Identify the Specific Ground of Inadmissibility

Determine the specific ground of inadmissibility that applies to your case. This could be based on criminal history, immigration violations, health-related issues, or other grounds.

2. Understand the Waiver Eligibility Criteria

Research and understand the eligibility criteria for the waiver you are seeking. Each ground of inadmissibility may have specific requirements and factors that must be considered.

3. Gather Supporting Documentation

Collect all necessary supporting documentation to demonstrate your eligibility for the waiver. This may include evidence of family ties, hardship, rehabilitation, or other relevant information depending on the grounds of inadmissibility. 

4. Complete and Submit the Waiver Application

Fill out the appropriate waiver application form, and provide accurate and complete information. Submit the completed waiver application, necessary fees, and supporting documents to the appropriate U.S. government agency. The specific agency will depend on your immigration category, such as USCIS or the U.S. embassy or consulate.

Can an Immigration Attorney Help Me With Inadmissibility?

Yes, an immigration attorney can provide valuable assistance and guidance when dealing with inadmissibility issues. These attorneys have expertise in immigration law and can help assess your specific situation, determine the grounds of inadmissibility, and advise you on the available options and potential waivers or exemptions that apply to your situation. In addition, an attorney can assist with gathering the necessary documentation, preparing the waiver application, and representing your interests during the process. This additional expertise ensures that your case is handled effectively and that you receive personalized advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

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Patricia Hernandez Profile Picture

Patricia HernandezReviewer

I was born in Colombia and immigrated with my family to the United States at an early age. Experiencing first-hand the struggles faced by immigrants in coming to the U.S. shaped my life and instilled in me humility and the importance of hard work. At an early age I knew that my life calling would be to speak out against injustice, fight for equality, and help immigrants achieve the American Dream. Visit: