What Does It Mean That A Visa Applicant Must Be Admissible?

Whether someone is applying for permanent residence or for a temporary non-immigrant visa such as visitor, student, or H-1B, among others, every visa applicant is required to be admissible to the U.S.  If everything else about the case is fine, but the applicant is inadmissible, the visa will be denied.

It is important, therefore, before preparing an entire case to determine whether the visa applicant may be subject to any ground of inadmissibility. If so, then it must be determined whether a waiver of that ground of inadmissibility is available, and then whether the visa applicant qualifies for the waiver.

Grounds of Inadmissibility

There are many grounds of inadmissibility, meaning reasons a person may not be admissible to the U.S.  Broad categories of grounds of inadmissibility, each with many more specific sub-grounds, include:

  • Health related grounds, including but not limited to:
    • Communicable disease of public health significance
    • Substance-related disorders including alcohol abuse or dependence
    • Drug abuser or addict
    • Mental defect or disease
    • Vaccinations

Note the law provides for a waiver in some instances if the applicant qualifies.

  • Economic grounds, including whether the person is likely to become dependent on public assistance.
  • Criminal grounds. These are extensive and there actually is a practice area within immigration law that lawyers call crimmigration.  Attorneys in that practice area advise on the crossover of immigration consequences arising from criminal convictions.  Most immigration lawyers deal with minor criminal issues that do not trigger admissibility issues, but they refer more serious cases to a respected crimmigration colleague. Waivers may be available depending on specifics.
  • Moral grounds, including specifically polygamy.
  • Violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act regarding entry or documentation. This ground includes prior illegal entries, prior deportations/removals, unlawful presence (including those who entered lawfully but overstayed), document fraud, student visa abuse, stowaways, smugglers, false claim to U.S. citizenship, and much more. Waivers may be available depending on the specifics.
  • Security and Related grounds, including espionage, sabotage, illegal activity, terrorist activity, foreign policy grounds, Nazis and former Nazis, persons committing torture or genocide, violators of religious freedoms, recruitment of child soldiers, confiscation of American property, persons who disclose confidential business information, Iranian citizens studying nuclear science, immigrants who are members of the communist or other totalitarian party, and many more.

The spouse or child of someone who is inadmissible for some of the above security reasons is also inadmissible if the activity occurred within the last 5 years.

Again, there is extensive law on each of these grounds of inadmissibility, there may be a waiver available, and they are applied on a case-by-case basis depending on all information available.

This article is a short summary only.  There may be some differences in the grounds of inadmissibility between nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, as well.  The purpose here is to inform you of what it means to be “admissible” to the U.S., and the importance of admissibility for every type of visa application.  Ideally, questions of admissibility should be analyzed early on in the case to avoid an unpleasant surprise at the last step.

For questions, please contact Barbara Marcouiller.