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Getting a US Visa with a Criminal Record

Updated: Oct 14, 2022  | Tags: Visa with Criminal Record, ESTA


If you have been denied an ESTA due to previous criminal history, your next option for obtaining a travel authorization to the United States would be to apply for a U.S. Visitor Visa. Visitor Visas can be one of three types: B-2 Tourist Visa, B-1 Business Visa or B-1/B-2 Mixed-Use Tourism & Business Visa.

Getting a US Visa with a Criminal Record
Getting a US Visa with a Criminal Record

How can I apply for U.S. Visa with a criminal record?

The next most relevant travel authorization for denied ESTA applicants is a Visitor Visa. You may be eligible to apply for a B-2 or B-1 Visitor Visa for tourism, business, medical or transit purposes. Visitor Visas entail a lengthier and more costly application process, yet they do offer additional benefits such as longer period of validity and longer permitted durations of stay. For a full comparison, visit the do I need an ESTA or visa page. In addition to completing the DS-160 application form you'll need to complete a Criminal History Form, which varies based on your selected U.S. embassy.

What are the relevant questions related to criminal history on the DS-160 form?

The questions on the DS-160 form most relevant to individuals with non-terrorism related criminal history are as follows:

  • “Are you or have you ever been a drug abuser or addict?”
  • “Have you ever been arrested or convicted for any offense or crime, even though subject of a pardon, amnesty, or other similar action?”
  • “Have you ever violated, or engaged in a conspiracy to violate, any law relating to controlled substances?”
  • “Are you coming to the United States to engage in prostitution or unlawful commercialized vice or have you been engaged in prostitution or procuring prostitutes within the past 10 years?”
  • “Have you ever been involved in, or do you seek to engage in, money laundering?”
  • “Have you ever committed or conspired to commit a human trafficking offense in the United States or outside the United States?”


For each of the questions above, you will need to provide details regarding your personal situation and why you have been rehabilitated since the convictions for any related criminal activity arising from the above circumstances. You should be honest and truthful in your responses and support any claims with evidence. For example, activities that can be constituted as part of rehabilitation include no recurring criminal history, obtaining a job, starting a business or raising a family.

What do I do with the Criminal History Form?

The Criminal History Form will usually need to be completed / typed online and then printed out. After you have printed it out and hand-signed the form, you will need to scan it so you have a signed electronic copy. You will then need to email both the scanned signed electronic copy of your questionnaire and local Police Certificate, to the local embassy email address.

You can obtain a copy of your Police Certificate by visiting the site for your local Police authority.

You will also need to bring the hard copy of your Criminal History Form and Police Certificate to your embassy interview (which you will schedule by following the steps below). More information regarding the details of this process can be found at our local U.S. embassy: U.S. embassy list

After submitting and obtaining proof of your completed DS-160, and obtaining your Criminal History Form and Police Certificate, you’ll need to schedule your US Embassy appointment. See this article for more information on scheduling your US Embassy Appointment

My conviction is considered spent, do I still need to get a Police Certificate?

Yes, you are still required to provide a Police Certificate when applying for a visa even if your conviction is spent.

What if I am denied a U.S. visa?

If you are denied a U.S. visa, you are provided a reason under what immigration law has been applied to justify the refusal. Before reapplying, you should prepare evidence that supports your claim the immigration rules that were previously used to refuse your U.S. visa application are no longer relevant to your subsequent application.


ESTA denial does not mean you will not be able to enter the United States. Visitor Visas such as the B-2 Tourist Visa and B-1 Business Visa are alternative travel authorizations that usually provide greater benefits than an ESTA, albeit at a lengthier and more costly application process.