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Travelling to US with a UK criminal record

edited October 2015 in - USA
I am planning a trip to Boston, to see my daughter who is now living there. I want to take my partner who has a criminal record for a minor offence more than five years ago. I understand that you are not allowed into the USA with a criminal record, but I've also been told that there is no way of the US authorities knowing if he has one or not. Can anyone advise on this. Also, what would happen if he went there and they did know, would he be back on the next plane?


  • No one can answer your question when you give no clue as to what the conviction was for, nor what penalty was paid. Crimes of moral turpitude (like theft and drugs) put US CBP into a lather whereas stuff like drinking/driving they don't care about (unlike Canada.)

    That said, the UK does not share its criminal database with the US, only Canada does that.

    If someone is denied entry, then yes, they're generally deported immediately.

  • You are asked when you apply for the ESTA if you have a criminal record, this is the time your partner must admit his criminal history.

    If you attempt to travel under the Visa Waiver Programme, by making a false declaration to the questions asked as part of the ESTA process, you are potentially committing a criminal offence under US law. In particular, two areas of law are relevant:
    The Immigration and Nationality Act – Sec. 275. [8 U.S.C. 1325] – Entry of alien at improper time or place; misrepresentation and concealment of facts – Maximum 2 years in prison
    2. U.S. Code Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 75, Section 1546 – Fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents – Maximum 10 years in prison

    Your partner could be held, detained at length and then deported if he tried to enter the USA with an undeclared criminal history.
  • Thank you. I really appreciate your replies. The criminal record was due to a minor (I think) possession of drugs offence when he was younger and stupider and wasn't worried about getting an entry visa to the States. I have since done some more research and it seems likely, but not certain, he'll be able to travel using the ESTA system. The US authorities do not have access to UK police records unless they put in a specific request on an individual, which seems very unlikely. However, it is a criminal record in the USA to lie on the Visa Waiver Program / ESTA and therefore if this happens you definitely don't get to to. There is lots of detail on this page for anyone who is interested.
    So it's a hard one but I guess in our situation, he'll declare it and see what happens.
  • The ESTA application definitely asks " Have you ever violated any law related to possessing, using or distributing illegal drugs? " In the USA there is no concept of the "spent" conviction , so as far as the US are concerned your partner had a criminal conviction that is still valid.
  • With only one offence and having the conviction happen more than 5 years ago and (I assume) no jail time his chances of being issued a waiver of ineligibility are fairly good. If he can show steady employment, ties to the UK, good financial back-up, etc. then his chances are excellent.

    You don't mention when you're travelling but the bureaucratic process is slow so you have to get the application submitted asap.

    Good luck.

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