Inadmissibility in U.S. Immigration

Inadmissibility in U.S. Immigration

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Last updated: April 4, 2024.

What is inadmissibility in U.S. immigration?

In U.S. immigration law, inadmissibility refers to the legal condition of an individual who is not allowed to enter or remain in the U.S.

If you are found inadmissible, your visa, green card application can be denied or you might be denied entry into the U.S.

There are various grounds for inadmissibility, and they are outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). 

Waivers may be available for certain grounds of inadmissibility, allowing individuals to overcome these barriers under certain conditions. 

Some of the common reasons for inadmissibility include:

Ground of inadmissibility

Is a waiver available?

Health-Related Grounds: Individuals who have certain communicable diseases or physical or mental disorders that pose a threat to public safety may be deemed inadmissible. Yes. File Form I-601
Criminal Grounds: Those who have been convicted of certain crimes, including crimes of moral turpitude, drug offenses, and multiple criminal convictions, may be found inadmissible. Yes, for certain crimes. File Form I-601
National Security Reasons: Individuals who are considered a threat to U.S. national security, have engaged in terrorist activities, members of totalitarian parties, participants of Nazi persecutions or genocide No. Exception: membership in a totalitarian party (see below)
Public Charge: A person who is likely to become a public charge (dependent on government assistance) may be found inadmissible. No. Exceptions:

  • Adjustment of Status applicants based on witness or informant status;
  • Certain aged, blind, or disabled applicants for adjustment of status under the legalization program
Fraud and Misrepresentation: Providing false information or lying to immigration authorities can lead to a finding of inadmissibility. Yes. File Form I-601. Exception: individuals who falsely claimed to be US citizens are not eligible for a waiver
Prior Removals and/or Unlawful Presence: Individuals who have accrued unlawful presence in the U.S. (for example, overstaying their visa) may be subject to bars on reentry. Yes. File Form I-601 or I-601A
Labor Certification: Certain individuals seeking employment-based immigration must meet specific labor certification and qualification criteria, and failure to do so may result in inadmissibility. No
Miscellaneous grounds:

  • Practicing polygamists
  • Persons who entered the country illegally (without being inspected and admitted or paroled)
  • Persons who failed to attend immigration and/or removal hearings
  • Smugglers
  • Student visa abusers
  • Former U.S. citizens who renounced their citizenship to avoid taxation
  • Unlawful voters
  • International child abductors and relatives of such abductors
No

What does “admissibility” mean in U.S. immigration?

In the context of U.S. immigration, “admissibility” refers to the eligibility of an individual to enter or be admitted to the U.S. 

When someone applies for a visa, seeks admission at a port of entry, or applies for adjustment of status within the U.S., their admissibility is assessed to determine if they meet the legal requirements to be allowed into the country.

Factors that affect admissibility include, but are not limited to:

  • Health: Immigrant applicants must have certain required vaccinations so they don’t pose a threat to public safety due to the presence of certain communicable diseases or serious health conditions.
  • Criminal History: Certain criminal convictions can render an individual inadmissible. Crimes involving moral turpitude, drug offenses, and certain other offenses may be grounds for denial.
  • Security Concerns: Individuals who are considered a national security risk or who have engaged in terrorist activities may be deemed inadmissible.
  • Immigration Violations: Previous violations of immigration laws, such as unlawful presence, overstaying a visa, or entering the U.S. without proper authorization, can negatively affect admissibility.
  • Public Charge: Certain immigrant applicants (such as family-based) must demonstrate that they are not likely to become a public charge, meaning they won’t depend on public assistance for their financial support.
  • Fraud and Misrepresentation: Providing false information or committing fraud in connection with immigration applications can lead to a finding of inadmissibility.
  • Labor Certification: Individuals applying for certain employment-based visas may need to meet specific labor certification and qualification criteria to be deemed admissible.
  • Miscellaneous Grounds: Smugglers, student visa abusers, practicing polygamists, former U.S. citizens who renounced their citizenship to avoid taxation, unlawful voters and international child abductors might be barred from obtaining a visa or entering the U.S.

What does “ground of inadmissibility” mean?

A “ground of inadmissibility” refers to a specific reason or factor outlined in U.S. immigration law that can render an individual ineligible for admission to the U.S.

Admission to the U.S. include:

  • Issuance of a nonimmigrant or immigrant visa
  • Adjustment of Status
  • Entry to the U.S. 
  • Applying for various immigration benefits (asylum, refugee, TPS, etc.)

These grounds are enumerated in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and cover a wide range of factors, from health-related concerns to criminal history, security issues, and violations of immigration laws. 

Essentially, they represent the criteria that immigration authorities use to assess whether an individual should be allowed to enter or remain in the U.S.

Some common grounds of inadmissibility include:

  • Health-Related Grounds
  • Criminal Grounds
  • National Security Reasons
  • Public Charge
  • Fraud and Misrepresentation
  • Unlawful Presence
  • Previous Deportation 
  • Immigration Violations
  • Labor Certification
  • Practicing polygamists
  • Student visa abusers
  • Former U.S. citizens who renounced their citizenship to avoid taxation
  • Unlawful voters
  • International child abductors, among others

In some cases, waivers or other forms of relief may be available to individuals to overcome certain grounds of inadmissibility.

Who is affected by grounds of inadmissibility?

The grounds of inadmissibility outlined in U.S. immigration law can affect various individuals who are seeking entry into the U.S. or applying for certain immigration benefits.

These grounds apply to both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants, as well as individuals already present in the U.S. who are seeking a change of status or adjustment of status.

Here are the main categories of individuals who may be affected by grounds of inadmissibility:

  • Visa Applicants: Individuals applying for both immigrant (permanent) and nonimmigrant (temporary) visas are subject to the grounds of inadmissibility. This includes individuals applying for family-sponsored visas, employment-based visas, diversity visas, and other categories.
  • Adjustment of Status Applicants: Individuals present in the U.S. who are seeking to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) are subject to the grounds of inadmissibility.
  • Asylum Seekers and Refugees: Individuals applying for asylum or refugee status may be subject to certain grounds of inadmissibility.
  • Noncitizens Already in the U.S.: Noncitizens who are already in the U.S. on a temporary basis, such as individuals with nonimmigrant visas, may be subject to inadmissibility if they violate the terms of their visa status.
  • Applicants for Temporary Protected Status (TPS): Individuals applying for Temporary Protected Status may be subject to grounds of inadmissibility.

Health-related grounds of inadmissibility

Health-related grounds of inadmissibility refer to conditions or diseases that may render an individual ineligible for admission to the U.S.

These grounds are designed to protect public health and safety. 

The specific health-related grounds of inadmissibility are outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and include the following:

  • Communicable Diseases: Individuals who have a communicable disease of public health significance may be deemed inadmissible. This includes diseases such as tuberculosis, syphilis, gonorrhea, and leprosy. Immigrant visa applicants must provide proof of required vaccinations when applying for an immigrant visa or a green card.
  • Physical or Mental Disorders with Harmful Behavior: Individuals who have a physical or mental disorder and a history of behavior associated with the disorder that poses a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of themselves or others may be found inadmissible.
  • Drug Abusers and Addicts: Individuals who are determined to be drug abusers or addicts, or who have a history of drug abuse or addiction, may be deemed inadmissible.
  • Vaccination Requirements: Certain vaccinations are required for immigrants seeking admission to the U.S. Lack of compliance with vaccination requirements may lead to inadmissibility. The list of required vaccinations is available here.

It’s important to note that the determination of health-related inadmissibility is generally based on a medical examination conducted by an authorized panel physician

This examination is required for all immigrant visa categories (for those seeking to become permanent residents).

In some instances, waivers may be available for health-related grounds of inadmissibility. 

Is a waiver available for a health-related ground of inadmissibility?

Yes, a waiver is available for certain health-related grounds of inadmissibility.

You need to file Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, to apply for a waiver.

Criminal grounds of inadmissibility

Criminal grounds of inadmissibility refer to certain criminal convictions or activities that can render an individual ineligible for admission to the U.S. 

The criminal grounds of inadmissibility include:

  • Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT): Crimes involving moral turpitude, such as fraud, theft, murder, certain crimes against minors, etc. The definition of moral turpitude is not precisely defined but generally includes offenses that involve dishonesty or morally reprehensible conduct.
  • Multiple Criminal Convictions: Individuals convicted of two or more crimes and sentenced to five or more total years in prison in the aggregate. 
  • Controlled Substance Violations: Any drug-related offenses (foreign or U.S.), may result in inadmissibility.
  • Drug Trafficking: Individuals who aid, abet, conspire, or collude with others in drug trafficking.
  • Prostitution: Individuals coming to the U.S. to engage in prostitution, or who has engaged in prostitution within 10 years of applying for a visa, Adjustment of Status or entry to the U.S. are inadmissible. This ground also applies to individuals who profited from prostitution.
  • Commercialized Vice: Individuals coming to the US to engage in any unlawful commercialized vice is inadmissible
  • Human Trafficking: Individuals involved in human trafficking or aids, abets, or colludes with an individual who is a trafficker in the U.S. or outside the U.S.
  • Money Laundering: Conviction for money laundering or seeks to enter the U.S. to engage in laundering of financial instruments
  • Violations of Religious Freedom: Individuals who while serving as a foreign government official was responsible for or directly carried out severe violations of religious freedom
  • Commission of a serious crime in the U.S. where a person has asserted immunity from prosecution: Individuals who committed serious criminal offenses and were granted immunity from criminal prosecution if they leave the U.S. and fail to return and submit themselves to the jurisdiction of the federal court overseeing the case

Is a waiver available for criminal grounds of inadmissibility?

Yes, a waiver may be available for certain criminal history grounds of inadmissibility.

You need to file Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, to apply for a waiver.

National security grounds of inadmissibility

The national security grounds of inadmissibility include the following:

  • Espionage: Individuals who seek to enter the U.S. to engage in espionage, sabotage, to attempt to overthrow the U.S. government
  • Terrorist Activities: Individuals who have engaged in terrorist activities or who are affiliated with terrorist organizations 
  • Threat to Foreign Policy: Individuals who present threat to foreign policy
  • Membership in a Totalitarian Party: Membership in any totalitarian party
  • Nazi Persecutions or Genocide: Individuals who have participated in Nazi persecution or acts of genocide

Is a waiver available for national security grounds of inadmissibility?

No, the U.S. immigration system does not provide a waiver for national security grounds of inadmissibility. 

Exception: you can apply for a waiver of membership in a totalitarian party ground if you meet the following requirements:

The waiver may be granted for humanitarian purposes, to assure family unity, or when it is otherwise in the public interest, if you are not a threat to the security of the U.S.

To apply for a waiver of membership in a totalitarian ground of inadmissibility, file Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility.

Public charge ground of inadmissibility

The “public charge” ground of inadmissibility refers to certain individuals who are deemed likely to become primarily dependent on the government for financial support.

Key points regarding the public charge ground of inadmissibility include:

  • Definition of Public Charge: A “public charge” is defined as an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by the receipt of public cash assistance or long-term institutional care at government expense.
  • Public Charge Determination: When individuals apply for certain immigration benefits, such as an immigrant visa or adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), they may be subject to a public charge determination. The determination is based on factors such as age, health, income, education, and skills.
  • Affidavit of Support: Many immigrants are required to have a sponsor (typically a family member, joint sponsor or employer) submit an affidavit of support (Form I-864), pledging to financially support the immigrant and ensuring they will not become a public charge.
  • Public Assistance Programs: Receipt of certain public assistance programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and certain forms of Medicaid, may be considered in a public charge determination.

Is a waiver available for the public charge ground of inadmissibility?

There is no specific waiver available for the public charge ground of inadmissibility. 

Exceptions: The following individuals applying for permanent residence can apply for a waiver of the public charge ground of inadmissibility:

  • Adjustment of Status applicants based on witness or informant status;
  • Certain aged, blind, or disabled applicants for adjustment of status under the legalization program

Fraud or misrepresentation grounds of inadmissibility

Fraud or misrepresentation grounds pertain to situations where an individual provides false information, withholds material information, or engages in fraudulent activities in the immigration process. 

Whether applying for a visa, seeking entry into the U.S., or applying for immigration benefits, individuals are required to provide accurate and truthful information.

Here are key aspects of fraud or misrepresentation grounds of inadmissibility:

  • Material Misrepresentation: The misrepresentation must be material, meaning that the false information is relevant to the immigration benefit sought. Even a seemingly minor misrepresentation can have serious consequences.
  • Types of Misrepresentation: Misrepresentation can occur in various forms, such as providing false information on visa applications, concealing material facts, presenting fraudulent documents, or making false statements during interviews with immigration officials.
  • Consequences: Individuals found to have committed fraud or misrepresentation may be subject to various penalties, including denial of the immigration benefit, visa revocation, and inadmissibility. The consequences can be severe and may affect future immigration applications.
  • Waivers: In some cases, waivers may be available to overcome a finding of inadmissibility due to fraud or misrepresentation. 

Is a waiver available for fraud or misrepresentation grounds of inadmissibility?

Yes, a waiver is available for the fraud or misrepresentation grounds of inadmissibility. 

Exception: Individuals who falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen are not eligible for a waiver of the fraud and misrepresentation grounds of inadmissibility.

The following categories can file Form I-601 to apply for a waiver:

  • Your qualifying U.S. citizen, or lawful permanent resident relative (spouse or parent), or the K visa petitioner would experience extreme hardship if you were denied admission; or
  • You are a VAWA self-petitioner and you or your U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or qualified parent or child would experience extreme hardship if you were denied admission

Prior removals and/or unlawful presence grounds of inadmissibility

Individuals who have prior removals (deportation) and unlawful presence are barred from returning to the U.S. 

Let’s explore these two categories:

  • Prior Removals (Deportation):
      • Individuals who have been previously removed (deported) from the U.S. may face inadmissibility if they attempt to reenter the country 
  • Unlawful Presence:
    • Unlawful presence refers to the period during which an individual is present in the U.S. without being admitted or paroled or after the expiration of the authorized period of stay.
    • Individuals who accrue unlawful presence and then depart the U.S. may be subject to bars on reentry. The bars depend on the length of the unlawful presence:
      • Individuals with more than 180 days but less than one year of unlawful presence may face a three-year bar.
      • Those with one year or more of unlawful presence may face a ten-year bar.
    • The bars are triggered when the individual departs the U.S. voluntarily or is removed. If an individual is subject to a three- or ten-year bar, they may be eligible for a waiver, but obtaining such a waiver is discretionary and requires demonstrating extreme hardship to a qualifying U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative.

Permanent bar: The following individuals are barred from entering the U.S. forever:

  • If you accrued unlawful presence in the U.S. on or after April 1, 1997, and then departed the U.S. or were removed from the U.S.; AND
  • You entered or attempted to reenter the U.S. on or after April 1, 1997, without a DHS officer admitting or paroling you into the U.S.

Is a waiver available for prior removals and/or unlawful presence grounds of inadmissibility?

Yes, waivers may be available for individuals facing inadmissibility due to prior removals (deportation) and unlawful presence in the U.S. 

Let’s explore the waivers available for each of these grounds:

  • Waiver for Prior Removals:
    • Individuals who have been previously removed from the U.S. may be eligible for a waiver, depending on the circumstances of the removal.
    • A common waiver used in such cases is the “Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal.” This form is typically filed with USCIS or with the U.S. consulate, depending on the individual’s circumstances.
  • Waiver for Unlawful Presence:
    • Individuals who are subject to the three- or ten-year bars on reentry due to unlawful presence may be eligible for a waiver under certain circumstances.
    • The Form I-601A, Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver (if applicant is in the U.S.) or Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (if applicant is outside the U.S.) are used for seeking a waiver of the unlawful presence bar.
    • To be eligible for the waiver, the individual must have a qualifying U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative, and they must demonstrate that the denial of admission would result in extreme hardship to the qualifying relative.

Lack of labor certification ground of inadmissibility

Labor certification is a process that U.S. employers are required to go through to demonstrate to the U.S. government that there are no qualified U.S. workers available to fill a specific job position, and therefore, the employer is seeking to hire a foreign worker. 

The labor certification process is typically required for employment-based immigrant visas, such as the EB-2 and EB-3 categories.

The failure to obtain proper labor certification can result in the denial of an employment-based immigrant visa application or adjustment of status application. 

Is a waiver available for the lack of labor certification ground of inadmissibility?

There is no waiver available for the lack of labor certification ground of inadmissibility. 

Miscellaneous grounds of inadmissibility

The miscellaneous grounds of inadmissibility include:

  • Practicing polygamists
  • Persons who entered the country illegally (without being inspected and admitted or paroled)
  • Persons who failed to attend immigration and/or removal hearings
  • Smugglers
  • Student visa abusers
  • Former U.S. citizens who renounced their citizenship to avoid taxation
  • Unlawful voters
  • International child abductors and relatives of such abductors

Is a waiver available for  miscellaneous grounds of inadmissibility?

There is no waiver available for miscellaneous grounds of inadmissibility.

Which grounds of inadmissibility are not eligible for a waiver?

The following grounds of inadmissibility waivers are not available:

  • Controlled Substance Traffickers
  • Espionage
  • Sabotage
  • Illegal Export of Goods, Technology, or Sensitive Information
  • Unlawful Overthrow or Opposition to U.S. Government
  • Terrorist Activities 
  • Adverse Foreign Policy Impact
  • Participants in Nazi Persecutions or Genocide

What to do if a ground of inadmissibility applies to me?

If you believe that one or more grounds of inadmissibility applies to your case, you need to take the following steps:

  • Seek Legal Advice:
      • Consult with an experienced immigration attorney who specializes in your type of inadmissibility ground to discuss your situation. A legal professional can assess the specific grounds of inadmissibility, provide guidance on potential options, and help you to prepare a strong waiver application (if eligible)
  • Understand the Grounds:
      • Clearly understand the specific grounds of inadmissibility that apply to your case. Different grounds have different requirements, and knowing the specifics is crucial in developing a strategy to address the issue.
  • Consider Waivers (if applicable):
      • If a waiver is available for the particular ground of inadmissibility, explore whether you are eligible and consider applying for a waiver. The waiver process is often discretionary, and presenting a strong case is essential.
  • Gather Documentation:
      • Collect all relevant documents that support your case. This may include personal records, medical records, employment history, and any other documentation that can help demonstrate your eligibility for admission.
  • Consular Processing or Adjustment of Status:
      • Determine whether your situation requires consular processing or adjustment of status. The process may vary depending on whether you are applying for an immigrant visa or adjusting your status within the U.S.
  • Prepare for Interviews:
      • Be prepared for interviews with immigration authorities. Provide honest and accurate information, and present any supporting documentation as needed.
  • Stay Informed:
      • Keep yourself informed about changes in immigration laws and policies. Regulations may evolve, and staying updated can help you make informed decisions.
  • Appeal (if applicable):
    • If your application is denied, explore whether you have the right to appeal the decision. Appeals processes can vary depending on the type of application and the agency involved.

If a waiver is available for my ground of inadmissibility, which form should I file?

The specific form you should file for a waiver of inadmissibility depends on the type of inadmissibility you are facing and the circumstances of your case. 

Different grounds of inadmissibility have specific waiver forms associated with them. 

Here are some common waiver forms for specific grounds of inadmissibility:

Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility:

  • This form is commonly used for various grounds of inadmissibility, including unlawful presence, fraud or misrepresentation, certain criminal offenses, and other grounds. It is typically used in consular processing or when applying for adjustment of status within the U.S.

Form I-601A, Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver:

  • This form is specifically designed for individuals who are in the United States and seeking a waiver for unlawful presence.
  • It is used when the individual is the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition, and the only ground of inadmissibility is unlawful presence.

Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal:

  • This form is used for individuals who have been previously deported or removed from the U.S. and are seeking permission to reapply for admission. 
  • It is often used in conjunction with other applications, such as visa applications 

Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant:

  • This form is used for individuals who are inadmissible on certain criminal or health-related grounds and are seeking advance permission to enter the U.S. as a nonimmigrant.

Filing several waiver applications together:

  • In some cases, an individual may need to file more than one form, depending on the specific grounds of inadmissibility. For example, someone with prior removal and unlawful presence may need to file both Form I-212 and Form I-601 or I-601A.

Related Links:

Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility

How to Prove Extreme Hardship for a Waiver, Form I-601

Form I-601A, Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver

Criminal Records and Green Card Applications – Complete Guide