Not everyone who wants a visa is eligible for one. The US State Department classifies people with certain health or behavior characteristics as ineligible and denies them entry. The classifications can get complex, and there are often exceptions, but according to the State Department people who fit the following descriptions may not enter the US.
Certain health conditions are considered a threat to the US population. You may be refused entry if you:
- Have a disease that appears on the CDCs List of Communicable Diseases of Public Health Significance. This included HIV infection until January 4, 2010, when it was removed from the list.
- Cannot prove vaccination against certain diseases for which a vaccine is available, as suggested by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices. These diseases include but are not limited to measles, mumps, rubella, polio, influenza type B and hepatitis B.
- Have a mental or physical disorder that has caused them to be a threat, or makes them likely to be a threat, to themselves or others.
- Abuse, or are addicted to, drugs.
Except for strictly political misdeeds, a criminal record makes it difficult to obtain a visa. You are ineligible for a visa if you:
- Have been convicted of or admitted to committing a crime. (An exception may be allowed if you committed only one crime, were under age 18 at the time of the crime, it's been more than 5 years since both the crime and your sentence completion, and the max possible sentence was for less than a year and your own sentence wasn't more than 6 months.)
- Have been convicted of multiple offenses and sentenced to five or more years incarceration
- Have been involved in trafficking of either controlled substances or humans. Spouses and children who knew of this activity and benefitted financially from it within the past five years are also ineligible.
- Have been involved with prostitution at any time within the previous 10 years or intend to engage in it once in the US
- Wish to enter the US in order to pursue illegal commercial activities
- Have previously claimed immunity from prosecution after being involved in significant criminal activity
- Are involved in money laundering or wish to engage in money laundering in the US
Anyone who could pose a threat to US security is ineligible for a visa, including people who:
- May be planning to engage in espionage or sabotage
- Is involved in terrorist activities or whom the Attorney General has reason to believe is likely to do so once in the US
- Could negatively affect US foreign policy by their presence in the country
- Belong to or are affiliated with a totalitarian party
- Took an active role in genocidal activities between March 23, 1933 and May 8, 1945
Additional Ineligible Classes
Aliens seeking to perform skilled or unskilled labor may only be admitted if the Secretary of Labor determines this would not negatively affect US workers.
Aliens Unable to Self-Support
Aliens seeking legal permanent resident status must prove they are able to support themselves without government assistance.
This list is not exhaustive, and the details can be confusing. Visit the State Department web site for more detailed information and possible exceptions to certain ineligibilities. If you are unsure if any of the categories apply to you, you may want to consult an attorney experienced in immigration law.