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Can you enter the United States with a criminal record?

You want to come into the United States to craft a new future for yourself and your family, but you have a criminal record. When you apply to come in legally, is that going to make it impossible? Does the United States have a standing order that bars anyone with a criminal record from entering, or can you still immigrate?

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, it really depends on what that record looks like.

For instance, maybe you just have a minor charge, like a DUI. Even if you were convicted, you're not automatically barred from entry. However, if you have numerous convictions for driving under the influence, or if you have a long list of other misdemeanors and "minor" crimes on your record, you could end up getting denied. You can still apply. You simply may not be accepted.

The Department of Homeland Security also says that when the crime occurred can make a difference. For example, you may be able to work with the Office of Consular Affairs at the U.S. Embassy to get a waiver for a conviction that is far in the past. If you were convicted when you were 18, for instance, and you're now 45 with no other incidents, you may be granted a waiver. More recent crimes, though, could mean you are denied.

Immigrating can be more complicated with a criminal record, but it's not impossible. It's just crucial to know what legal steps to take and how to proceed to give yourself the best chance.

Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, "Admission to the U.S. with either a misdemeanor or criminal record," accessed Dec. 22, 2016

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