Six or seven years ago I was in the USA for W&T programme. I did a very stupid thing and was convicted for petty theft in Florida. I still have a pending fine, around 400 USD. I came back to my home country and tried to forget everything that happened.

A month ago I urgently needed to go for a business trip to the US (for a couple of days) and started to do the application for a B1 visa. Today, I surprisingly have my B1 visa, and I even noticed on the DS-160 form that a criminal record may exist. For the moment, I do not know the exact status of my case (filed/open/past due and etc), so I think that the officer just did not find any records, because they didn't look deeper.

Now I am worried about entering the US. Yes I have a valid visa, but they could deny entry, am I right?

  • 3
    If you are not going to Florida, the chances of anything coming back to haunt you are very slim. That said, you might end up being up for the original $400 plus interest plus penalties for not paying on time.
    – Aleks G
    Jul 11 '14 at 12:42
  • 2
    A good safety play might be to enquire about paying the fine. $400 is a pretty small sum compared with being unable to visit the US or even Florida. Jul 11 '14 at 13:02
  • 1
    @DJClayworth It's even smaller compared to the risk of being jailed. Jul 11 '14 at 13:58

You are sort of right. People who don't need visas to enter can be turned away if the agent believes their visit will be for the wrong reasons, such as being a "stay risk" who wants to immigrate rather than visit. People who show up with visas can be turned away if the agent believes the visa was obtained by lying (such as arranging a tourist visa but showing up with the tools you need to work.) See Does a US immigration officer really have the power to deny entry to the country at personal will?

People entering any country, even with the right visas, can be and are turned away if they have a criminal record in their own countries. It depends on the seriousness of the crime. For example Canada will not let you in if you have a drunk driving conviction. The USA, on the other hand, will - even if that conviction was in the USA. (Rob Ford coverage here in the Toronto area has made that clear.)

I can't quite tell if you put on your form that you might have a criminal conviction, or if when you got your paperwork back it said you might have a criminal conviction. If it's the latter case, you have nothing to worry about: they know about the petty theft and consider it too minor to exclude you.

I understand you don't want to fly all the way there for your urgent meeting and be turned away. You'd like some sort of paper reassurance to bring with you that says you'll be let in. The strongest reassurance there is is a visa, and you have it. This is as sure as you can be and while it's not 100%, you can't improve it. Take the flight, you will almost certainly get in.

  • Thank all of you for your answers. At next step I wanted to minimize risk of being stopped and sent back and tried to search whether I am eligible for entry. That is what I found on travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/general/…. There are some exceptions for being found ineligible for entry to U.S on criminal grounds. Exception comes for cases, when maximum penalty possible for the crime of which the alien was convicted did not exceed imprisonment for one year and if alien is sentenced less than 6 month period. I am not sure whether is it my case (400 USD fine)?
    – Jay
    Jul 16 '14 at 10:59
  • 1
    Well jail time of zero is less than six months. You will have to look up the maximum sentence for petty theft in Florida Jul 16 '14 at 12:00

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