When the U.S. Can Keep You Out

Learn why you may be denied entry to the United States and how to avoid being turned away.

For the protection of the United States, people with histories of criminal or terrorist activities, drug abuse, infectious medical problems, or certain other characteristics or behavior will never be allowed a visa, green card, or U.S. entry. In immigration law terms, these characteristics are known as the grounds of inadmissibility. Following is a list of the major categories of inadmissibility.

Major Grounds of Inadmissibility
Classes of InadmissibilityWaivers Available?
People with communicable diseases like tuberculosis and AIDSYes
People with physical or mental disordersYes
Drug abusers or addictsNo
Drug traffickersNo
People without proper vaccinationsYes
People with convictions for crimes involving moral turpitudeYes
ProstitutesYes
People with multiple criminal convictionsYes
SpiesNo
TerroristsNo
NazisNo
People likely to become dependent on welfareNo

Every person who applies to enter or stay in the United States, no matter how long the person plans to be there or whether he or she already has a green card, is checked to see whether he or she is inadmissible.

What Happens If You're Found Inadmissible

The various agencies handling your immigration-related applications may decide you are inadmissible any time you ask for permission to enter or stay in the United States. These agencies include the U.S. State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, through its subagencies Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or INS).

These agencies can use your inadmissibility to block you any time you try to cross the border, apply for a green card, or apply for any other type of visa or immigration status. If you're at a U.S. border when this occurs, you will be turned around and sent home. If you're in the United States, you will, if you have no other visa or status, be sent to immigration court for removal from the United States.

Even a permanent resident (green card holder) isn't safe from being found inadmissible. If a permanent resident departs the United States for more than 180 days, it's possible for him or her to be found inadmissible upon return. This situation might arise, for example, if the person had committed a crime, had developed HIV or tuberculosis, or had begun receiving public assistance since receiving the green card.

If you hold a green card, one way to avoid this problem is to apply for U.S. citizenship as soon as you're eligible. For more information on applying for citizenship, see Becoming a U.S. Citizen: A Guide to the Law, Exam, and Interview, by attorney Ilona Bray (Nolo).

Overcoming a Finding of Inadmissibility

Even if you fall into one of the categories of inadmissibility, you may not be absolutely barred from getting a green card or otherwise entering the United States. You may be able to get around the problem, for example if your illness can be cured or the doctor diagnosed you wrong, or the U.S. government made a mistake in your case and you aren't really inadmissible. If all of these fail, you may be able to apply for a waiver, meaning you ask the U.S. immigration authorities to overlook the problem and admit you anyway.

There are many technical factors that control whether you can overcome a finding of inadmissibility. For more on the grounds of inadmissibility and how to overcome them, see U.S. Immigration Made Easy, by Ilona Bray (Nolo). You may ultimately need to hire a good immigration lawyer.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
Great immigration lawyer, very professional, knowledgeable and experienced. Jacob always answered my questions, e-mails and calls; great customer service from him and everybody at his office. I highly recommend Jacob, probably the best immigration lawyer out there. Plinio Franca
★★★★★
I trust you know how much all of us at the Spreckels Organ Society appreciate your incredible generosity in providing legal assistance with the visas required by the international artists last year during our International Summer Organ Festival. We consider it an honor that you and your firm provided this service, and were delighted to publicize your firm in our concert materials. George H.
★★★★★
That's good news on the approval of our 3 executive L1A visas. You fought a tough RFE, but we won. We are pleased to be working with you. KB is also bringing passports tomorrow again to the US Embassy in Tashkent for visa processing. We look forward to his arrival to the US. Sarvar
★★★★★
I wanted to thank again and again for obtaining my E1 Treaty Trader visa for me. The process was not easy, especially since our trade was all based on Technology. You knew the law, and was able to craft an outstanding file to be presented to Immigration. We are now ready to take the business to the next level. Toda Raba
★★★★★
Thanks for helping me with my marriage-based immigration case. You were very accessible - taking my calls, returning my messages and emails promptly. You answered all my questions. I was most impressed and relieved that you attended the immigration interview with me and my wife. You made the whole process streamline and simple. You really know your stuff, and you're a nice, friendly guy as well. Shane P.
Schedule a Consultation - 866.488.1554