Skip Main Navigation

Grounds of Inadmissibility, Explained

Learn the specific reasons why an individual may be deemed ineligible to enter the U.S. or receive a green card

What Does “Grounds of Inadmissibility” Mean?

In the context of U.S. immigration law, “Grounds of Inadmissibility” refer to the specific reasons why an individual may be deemed ineligible to enter the United States or to be admitted as a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). These grounds are outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and can vary depending on various factors such as the applicant’s background, criminal history, health, or previous immigration violations.

In this guide, we’ll cover the different categories of inadmissibility and how to apply for a waiver to overcome being deemed ineligible for a green card or entry to the U.S.

Let Boundless be your immigration go-to, guaranteed approval or your money back.

Criminal Grounds

Under U.S. immigration law, an individual may be deemed ineligible to enter or remain in the country due to their criminal history. There are several categories of criminal grounds for inadmissibility, including:

  • Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT): These are offenses that involve dishonesty, fraud, or intent to harm others, such as theft, forgery, or aggravated assault. 
  • Controlled Substance Violations: Individuals who have been convicted of a violation relating to controlled substances, including possession, trafficking, or conspiracy to distribute drugs, are typically considered inadmissible.
  • Aggravated Felonies: Certain serious offenses, as defined by immigration law, are considered aggravated felonies. These can include crimes such as murder, rape, drug trafficking, and certain firearms offenses. Individuals convicted of aggravated felonies are almost always deemed inadmissible.
  • Multiple Criminal Convictions: Individuals with multiple convictions, regardless of the specific offenses, may also be subject to inadmissibility. The cumulative effect of multiple convictions can demonstrate a pattern of criminal behavior that raises concerns for immigration authorities. 

It’s important to note that the specifics of inadmissibility based on criminal grounds can vary depending on factors such as the seriousness of the offense, the individual’s immigration status, and whether they have any mitigating factors, such as rehabilitation efforts or evidence of remorse. Immigration authorities carefully review the criminal history of individuals applying for visas, green cards, or other forms of admission to the United States. Even individuals who are already in the United States can face deportation if they are found to be inadmissible based on criminal grounds. Therefore, it’s crucial for individuals with a criminal history to seek legal advice before pursuing any immigration-related applications or petitions.

You can learn more about navigating criminal charges or a criminal history during the green card application process in Boundless’ guide.

National Security

Individuals can also be found inadmissible to the U.S. due to perceived threats to the country’s safety, security, or interests. The following factors may lead to inadmissibility based on national security:

  • Terrorist Activities: Individuals who are known or reasonably believed to have engaged in or supported terrorist activities, organizations, or ideologies are considered inadmissible. This includes those who have provided material support to terrorist organizations, participated in terrorist training, or have been associated with known terrorist groups.
  • Espionage or Sabotage: Individuals who have engaged in espionage or sabotage against the U.S. or its interests, or who are reasonably believed to pose a threat in this regard, may be deemed inadmissible. This includes individuals who have acted as agents of foreign governments or entities engaged in activities detrimental to U.S. security.
  • Subversion of Government: Individuals who have engaged in or are reasonably believed to be engaged in activities aimed at overthrowing or subverting the U.S. government or its institutions may be deemed inadmissible. 
  • Affiliation with Prohibited Organizations: Membership or affiliation with organizations designated as terrorist groups by the U.S. government can lead to inadmissibility. This includes providing support or resources to such organizations.
  • Human Rights Violations: Individuals who have committed or are reasonably believed to have committed serious human rights violations, such as torture or extrajudicial killings, may be deemed inadmissible based on national security concerns.
  • Criminal Activities with National Security Implications: Certain criminal activities, even if not explicitly related to terrorism or espionage, may raise national security concerns if they pose a significant threat to public safety or the integrity of U.S. institutions. This can include offenses such as arms trafficking and cybercrimes targeting critical infrastructure.

Immigration Violations

Individuals who have violated immigration laws in the past may face barriers to obtaining visas, green cards, or other immigration benefits in the future. These violations can range from overstaying a visa to engaging in unauthorized employment while in the U.S. 

Key aspects of inadmissibility based on prior immigration violations include:

  • Overstaying Visas: Individuals who remain in the United States beyond the expiration date of their authorized period of stay, as indicated on their visa or entry documents, are considered to be in violation of their immigration status. Overstaying a visa can lead to inadmissibility and may result in a bar on reentry to the U.S. for a certain period of time, depending on the length of the overstay. 
  • Unlawful Presence: Individuals who accrue unlawful presence in the U.S., either through overstaying their visas or entering the country without inspection, may trigger bars to reentry if they depart the country and attempt to reenter legally. 
  • Unauthorized Employment: Working in the U.S. without proper authorization, such as a work visa or employment authorization document, constitutes a violation of immigration law. Individuals who engage in unauthorized employment may be deemed inadmissible and may face consequences such as deportation or bars to reentry.
  • Removal Orders: Individuals who have been subject to a final order of removal (deportation) by an immigration judge are generally considered inadmissible if they attempt to reenter the country without proper authorization. 

Learn more about visa overstays, unlawful presence, and other immigration violations here.

Fraud or Misrepresentation

There are situations where an individual is deemed ineligible to enter or remain in the U.S. due to providing false information, making fraudulent statements, or concealing material facts during the immigration process. A common example is lying about one’s citizenship status on job applications or other official documents. 

Inadmissibility based on fraud or misrepresentation can be complex, but here are several key factors to keep in mind:

  • Materiality: The false information provided must be material, meaning it is relevant to the immigration process and could potentially have influenced the decision of immigration authorities. Even seemingly minor misrepresentations can be considered material if they pertain to important aspects of the individual’s eligibility for a green card or visa. 
  • Intent: In many cases, inadmissibility based on fraud or misrepresentation requires an intent to deceive. This means that the individual knowingly provided false information or omitted material facts with the intention of obtaining immigration benefits to which they would not otherwise be eligible for. However, even innocent mistakes or omissions can sometimes lead to allegations of fraud if they are considered reckless or negligent.
  • Scope: Fraud or misrepresentation can occur at various stages of the immigration process, including visa applications, adjustment of status (green card) applications, asylum claims, naturalization applications, and any interviews or interactions with government officials. It can involve false statements on forms, forged documents, or misleading statements made during interviews.

Health Reasons

An individual could be deemed ineligible for immigration benefits due to health-related concerns that could pose a risk to public health or safety: 

  • Communicable Diseases: Individuals who have a communicable disease of public health significance may be deemed inadmissible. This includes diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), HIV/AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhea, and others specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 
  • Vaccination Requirements: Immigrant visa applicants are generally required to comply with vaccination requirements established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Failure to meet these vaccination requirements can lead to inadmissibility.
  • Substance Abuse: If you have a record of drug or alcohol abuse, you may be required to undergo drug testing or confirm completion of a substance abuse rehabilitation program. If you’re presently misusing prescription medications, illegal substances, or alcohol, you could be deemed inadmissible to the U.S. 
  • Mental Illness and Violent Behavior: If you have a mental health condition that has led to violent behavior in the past or is linked to potential violence, whether directed towards yourself or others, you could be deemed ineligible for certain immigration benefits. USCIS guidelines include drunk driving in this classification.

Boundless tip

To determine if someone is admissible based on health grounds, immigrant visa applicants and certain nonimmigrant visa applicants are generally required to undergo a medical exam conducted by a government-authorized physician. Learn more about the medical exam in Boundless’ guide.

Public Charge

Similar to inadmissibility based on health reasons, the U.S. government may find an individual is ineligible for a green card or other immigration benefit based on their likelihood of becoming a “public charge.” 

Individuals who are deemed likely to become dependent on government assistance due to a physical or mental health condition may be found inadmissible. This determination is made based on factors such as the individual’s age, health, financial resources, education, and skills.  The “public charge” rule in immigration law has changed over the last few years — be sure to check Boundless’ detailed guide for the most up-to-date information on public charge regulations.

Foreign Residence Requirement

Another category under the “grounds of inadmissibility” concept is the foreign residence requirement, also known as the “two-year home-country physical presence requirement,” which may apply to certain exchange visitors (J visa holders) and their dependents. 

Under the two-year home residency requirement, individuals who come to the U.S. as exchange visitors to participate in certain programs funded by the U.S. government or their home countries’ governments may be subject to a requirement to return to their home countries for a period of at least two years upon completion of their exchange visitor program.

J visa holders subject to the foreign residence requirement must fulfill this obligation before they can change or adjust their immigration status in the U.S. Failure to comply with the requirement may result in the denial of immigration benefits or inadmissibility. 
Learn more about the two-year home residency requirement and how to apply for a waiver here.

Applying for a Waiver of Inadmissibility

Even if an individual is deemed inadmissible to the U.S. based on one of the categories above, it may still be possible to enter the country or obtain a green card in certain circumstances by filing what’s called a “waiver of inadmissibility.” 

A waiver of inadmissibility provides a mechanism for individuals to request forgiveness for the grounds of inadmissibility and to be granted permission to enter or remain in the U.S. despite those grounds. 

Obtaining a waiver is not guaranteed, and each case is evaluated based on its own merits. The decision to grant a waiver is typically at the discretion of immigration authorities and may involve consideration of factors such as the severity of the inadmissibility, the individual’s ties to the U.S., their family situation, and other relevant circumstances.

Learn more about how to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility in Boundless’ detailed guide.

Additional Articles

Boundless Reviews