The DS 160 form for visa to the US asks those famous questions:

Do you seek to engage in espionage, sabotage, export control violations, or any other illegal activity while in the United States?

Do you seek to engage in terrorist activities while in the United States or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities?

Have you ever ordered, incited, committed, assisted, or otherwise participated in genocide?

Have you ever been directly involved in the coercive transplantation of human organs or bodily tissue?

obviously, I don't intend to answer "yes" to any of these questions. Why they ask them at all is a question, but maybe a different one.

My question is: What does actually happen if someone were hypothetically to state here that they've participated in genocide or stolen body parts? I'm asking if there is any kind of official procedure, government guideline, or even law that governs that.

Aside from the obvious cases, there's a few that might actually come up, such as the question about prostitution in the past 10 years (for people from countries where prostitution is legal). Or the question about being member of a paramilitary or resistance group where such groups are officially US supported, etc.

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    I'm not that familiar with the U.S. law. But for Canada, which have similar questions for visa applications, it is basically a questionnaire of potential inadmissiblities; essentially the law says explicitly if a foreign national did xxxx, they are simply not allowed (inadmissible) to enter the country. Some inadmissibilities can be overcome by some explanations, some cannot.
    – xngtng
    Dec 25, 2021 at 18:22
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    This is a good question. As far as I've been told, the primary purpose of the questions is not to get honest answers from terrorists and body snatchers but to provide an easy way to deport terrorists and body snatchers on the basis of lying on the form. It is interesting to wonder what happens if you do the unthinkable and actually say yes. Do they just deny you the visa or do they give it to you and then arrest you on arrival on charges of traveling with intent to commit bad things? Do they notify your local government and suggest that they investigate you? Dec 26, 2021 at 2:12
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    It's not unthinkable to answer at least one of the questions with yes - sometimes people sell or relinquish their organs under duress, which arguably would make them "directly involved" in coercive transplantation, albeit as a victim. Dec 26, 2021 at 8:31
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    I think I once read somewhere that the English humorist Stephen Potter, author of the One-Upmanship' series of books in the 1950s, disembarked from a transatlantic liner at New York around 1951 and was asked if he planned to overthrow the government of the United States. He foolishly answered 'I don't think so' and was held for quite a while. They don't like jokers. Dec 26, 2021 at 13:37
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    @Graham - but did he know whether they were seeds or nuts? Did you?
    – davidbak
    Dec 26, 2021 at 19:13

2 Answers 2


The Department of State has an operating manual and it contains many sections regarding different areas of foreign affairs, including the issuance and revocation of visas. In sections 300, grounds of eligibilities and ineligibilities are cited, usually based on requirements imposed by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Some procedures are unclassified, others are still redacted.

INA 212 or 8 U.S.C. 1182 lists groups of foreign nationals "who [...] are ineligible to receive visas and ineligible to be admitted to the United States", in which section you will find many provisions corresponding to the questions asked.

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    Reading through those pieces (thanks for finding the official references!) it seems these are all direct rejections, with no leeway or exceptions, do I read that right? I get it for terrorism, but I'm surprised that it's used for drugs or prostitution, irrespective of the question on whether those things are perfectly legal in wherever the applicant is coming from.
    – Tom
    Dec 25, 2021 at 19:31
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    @Tom These grounds for inadmissibility are set by law, and the government can only grant waivers to the extent permitted by law. In some circumstances, it is possible to apply for a waiver, but there are quite harsh limits to what can be waived. Dec 25, 2021 at 19:43
  • @Tom In each section, there are usually also waiver considerations and procedures. Some are harder than others. Waivers are granted by DHS, not the State Department or consular staffs, although sometimes their positive recommendation is required for DHS to proceed to consider whether to grant the waiver or not.
    – xngtng
    Dec 26, 2021 at 19:02
  • @Tom also, while for prostitution it is irrelevant whether it is legal in the foreign jurisdiction, for drugs it is not automatically a problem if it is in fact legal in a foreign jurisdiction. Legal means not prohibited by law, not that the use is only decriminalized, punished by a fine, not actively prosecuted or "legal" under local laws that are contradicted by a higher law.
    – xngtng
    Dec 26, 2021 at 19:07
  • @ZachLipton Technically, it's the executive branch, i.e. INS, can only grant waivers according to law. Congress can pass a law permitting and directing INS to admit somebody. Though rare, such private legislation does pass.
    – user71659
    Dec 27, 2021 at 3:33

What does actually happen if someone were hypothetically to state here that he's participated in genocide or stolen body parts?

If a visa applicant answers yes to any of these questions, the applicant is found to be inadmissible to the United States, the application is denied, and no visa is issued. The applicant's passport would normally be returned, though I suppose it's possible that the applicant might be reported to law enforcement authorities in the host country, in which case the applicant's passport might not be returned.

I'm asking if there is any kind of official procedure, government guideline or even law that governs that.

The law, as noted in another answer, is 8 USC 1182, which governs inadmissibility.

Aside from the obvious cases, there's a few that might actually come up, such as the question about prostitution in the past 10 years (for people from countries where prostitution is legal).

8 USC 1182(a)(2)(D)(i) provides that a person who has (among other things) "engaged in prostitution within 10 years of the date of application for a visa" is inadmissible, without regard to the legal status of the act of prostitution in the jurisdiction in which it occurred, so it doesn't matter where the person comes from or where the person engaged in prostitution. As with the other inadmissibility questions, the wording is essentially taken directly from the statute, so a "yes" answer would lead automatically to denial.

As to admissions of espionage, sabotage, or terrorism, it's probably likely that the CIA would learn of them, since it's fairly common knowledge that the CIA, like most intelligence services, places its agents in diplomatic and consular posts. The CIA or the State Department might also alert the intelligence services or law enforcement authorities of the host nation; I don't know whether policies governing that would be publicly available.

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