News report | | 12-10-2023 | ±5 minutes reading time

Those with criminal records can still travel to America in most cases. However, they will probably need a visa, as in this case, it is usually not possible to apply for an ESTA. If you do qualify for an ESTA, you can easily and quickly apply for it via this website.

ESTA application with a criminal record

When you fill in the ESTA form, you’ll have to answer several background questions, some of which relate to having a criminal record. Like with most other countries, the USA can’t check with the UK government whether a traveller has a criminal record. However, if you are suspected of a criminal offence in a country other than your home country, the country in question can submit a request for international legal assistance, which will allow it to check your criminal record (if any). One of the methods used by the US immigration service is to check whether a traveller has suspicious interests is (among others) checking their social media profiles.

The ESTA form: background questions and statement of agreement

Towards the end of the ESTA application form, you’ll have to agree to the statement of agreement. By agreeing, you’ll automatically declare that you have answered all questions in the form fully and truthfully. Indeed, you are not allowed to lie in your ESTA application, and an ESTA issued based on false information will not be valid. If you lie on the ESTA form and the USA finds out, you will be immediately expelled from the country, and you will be denied entry to the United States for at least 5 years. Also, you might be legally prosecuted if you provide false information in your ESTA application. If you lie about having a criminal record while applying for a US visa, you might be denied entry to America permanently.

In which cases am I not allowed to enter America with a criminal record?

The nature and severity of the crime will affect the approval or rejection of your application for a travel authorisation to America. You may not apply for an ESTA if you committed:

  • Personal offences such as murder, manslaughter, rape, assault, human trafficking and kidnapping.
  • Property crimes such as burglary, arson or theft.
  • Fraud or identity theft.
  • Crimes resulting in serious property damage or serious injury to another person.
  • Crimes that damaged public institutions.
  • Crimes related to drug possession or drug trafficking (excluding medical drugs).
  • Acts of terrorism.

If you cannot apply for an ESTA due to not meeting the requirements, you can still try to apply for a visa to America.

Can I travel to the US on an ESTA?

Having a criminal record does not necessarily prevent you from entering America. However, you might not be able to apply for an ESTA, in which case you’ll have to apply for a visa. If you have committed minor offences in the past, such as urinating in public, public drunkenness or traffic offences, you’ll still be able to apply for an ESTA in most cases. It is essential that you can truthfully answer “No” to all security questions while applying for an ESTA.

If this is not the case, you may not apply for an ESTA, but you should still be able to apply for a visa through a US Consulate. By doing so, you will be able to explain your criminal record in greater detail and obtain a visa to America.

Going to the USA with a cleared criminal record

The amount of time that it takes for a criminal record to expire depends on the nature of the crime that led to the record. When your criminal record is cleared, your judicial records are deleted. However, the clearance of your criminal record does not automatically mean that you qualify for an ESTA to the United States. Even if your judicial record is deleted, the United States immigration authorities can sometimes still tell from your biometric data (including your fingerprints) that you have been in contact with the police or the justice system in the past. If you are planning a trip to the United States, it is therefore wise to seek legal advice, or to contact the United States embassy or consulate in your home country. There you can inquire whether you are eligible for the ESTA or whether you must apply for a visa.

Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a crime that resulted in serious property damage, serious injury to another person or damage to a government agency? Or have you ever broken a law regarding the possession, use or distribution of illegal drugs? Then you cannot apply for an ESTA and must apply for a visa anyway, regardless of whether your criminal record has been cleared. You can apply for a visa through the US embassy or consulate.

Are you eligible for the ESTA?

If you can truthfully answer “No” to all the background questions, and you meet all the ESTA requirements, you can apply for this travel authorisation. You may submit your online ESTA application easily and quickly via this website. In most cases, the ESTA is granted within 3 days after properly submitting all the required documents and information.

If there is anything wrong about the documents or information provided, e-Visa.ie will get in touch with you as soon as possible to ensure that you submit the correct information and documents. e-Visa.ie aims to process your ESTA application as quickly and smoothly as possible. If you hae any questions regarding your ESTA applications, please read the frequently asked questions.

e-Visa.ie is a commercial and professional visa agency, and supports travellers in obtaining, among others, the ESTA USA. e-Visa.ie acts as an intermediary and is in no way part of any government. You can also apply for an ESTA directly with the immigration service (21 USD per ESTA, via esta.cbp.dhs.gov). However, not with our level of support. If you submit your application via e-Visa.ie, our support centre is available to you 24/7. In addition, we manually check your application and all the documents you provide before submitting it to the immigration authorities on your behalf. If we suspect any errors or omissions while doing so, we will personally contact you to ensure that your application can still be processed quickly and correctly. To use our services, you pay us 21 USD in consular fees, which we pay to the immigration service on your behalf, as well as € 30,55 in service fees as compensation for our services, including VAT. Our services have saved many travellers from major problems during their trip. Should an application be rejected despite our support and verification, we will refund the full purchase price (unless an application for a previous ESTA USA was rejected for the same traveller). Read more about our services here.