ESTA Criminal Record Rules and Regulations

13 Jul 20:36

One of the most popular ways to visit the United States is with an ESTA permit. Whether you are planning a vacation to the United States or transiting through the country, you will need an ESTA.

But what exactly is ESTA? ESTA allows visitors to enter the United States without a visa for up to 90 days. Applying for an ESTA online is simple, and you will receive a response within a day or two. However, applying with a history of criminal records may be more difficult. So, with a prior criminal record, can you obtain an ESTA travel document? Certain factors influence the answer.

Does ESTA look into criminal records? Yes. However, if you meet certain conditions related to the nature of the crime, the date of the crime, and your age at the time, your criminal record may not matter.

Applying for ESTA with a criminal record:

The nature of your crime will ultimately determine whether you are eligible for an ESTA. If they mentioned criminal records, the USA would not reject your application outright. In fact, you are not required to declare less serious one-time charges. While completing the application, you will be asked a few eligibility questions to determine whether you must disclose your criminal history.

You will usually receive a response from the authorities within a day of submitting your application. Following that, you can check your ESTA status online.

Do you have a conviction record?

ESTA questions about convictions will require you to provide information about your criminal history. You will be asked if you have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime that caused serious harm to a person, property, or government authority. This question is critical for distinguishing serious criminals from people who may have committed a one-time crime using the ESTA form.

In the United States, moral turpitude refers to crimes that “gravely violate the sentiment or accepted standard of the community.” You will be required to declare such crimes, and in most cases, you will be ineligible for ESTA. Such offences include:

  • Crimes against a person include murder, rape, kidnapping, manslaughter, serious assault, and gross indecency.
  • Forgery, bribery, tax evasion, and perjury are examples of crimes that cause harm to government officials.
  • Burglary, arson, and theft are all crimes that deprive people of their property.

You must answer truthfully in your ESTA application if you have been arrested, prosecuted, or convicted of a serious crime. Anyone who has committed a crime of this nature must answer “Yes” to this question. You must accept that you will not be able to obtain the ESTA and must instead apply for a visa. Lying has serious ramifications.

Some exceptions are permitted. If you committed the crime before you were an adult, that is, before the age of 18, you could still enter the United States with ESTA. You may be eligible for an ESTA if you received a sentence of 6 months or less, or if the maximum sentence for your crime was a year.

If you plan to answer no to the question in the application, you must seek legal counsel in these cases. You should clear up any doubts you have and try to stay safe. This is due to the fact that even if your ESTA is approved, you will not be guaranteed entry into the United States. Even if you pass the ESTA criminal record check, border patrol can still look up your criminal history and deny you entry.

What if you have a traffic offense?

According to US government rules, if you were charged with a traffic offence or drunken driving but did not cause an involuntary homicide, you did not commit a serious crime. People who have had minor traffic or parking violations are usually eligible as well. However, frequency is important in this case because repeat offenders are not given as much leeway.

Addicts who have been arrested multiple times for violating liquor laws must answer yes to the criminal record question on the ESTA application. Furthermore, if your traffic violations have caused harm or damage to other people or government officials, you will not be granted an ESTA.

ESTA eligibility for those with drug offense convictions:

The United States has a zero-tolerance policy toward illegal drug users. As a result, if you have ever been arrested for possessing, distributing, or using illegal drugs, you must answer yes to the criminal record question on the ESTA form. There are a few exceptions to consider.

The laws governing medical cannabis are likely to differ depending on your country of origin. Medical cannabis consumed without supervision is usually considered illegal drugs. However, if you use medical cannabis solely for therapeutic purposes, you are not required to include it on your criminal record. Similarly, if you used legal drugs in your home country, you are technically not in legal trouble.

Overall, if you did not break any laws while using drugs and have no drug-related convictions in your past, your ESTA application should be approved. However, if you have been found guilty of drug offences, you should apply for a visa instead.

Were you convicted of assault?

If you have never caused serious harm to someone or their property through assault, your criminal record will not be considered for your ESTA application. People who have been arrested multiple times for assault, on the other hand, must answer ‘Yes’ to the criminal record question. The United States will not allow habitual assaulters into the country via ESTA.

ESTA application for people with the suspended sentence:

Suspended Sentence is a situation in which the court declares punishment with conditions. If the person in question is arrested again for another crime, the suspension is revoked and they must serve the sentence. The United States Customs and Border Protection has jurisdiction over ESTA, and they do not consider suspended people to be criminals due to moral confusion.

Fraud and Misrepresentation:

You won’t be able to get an ESTA permit if you’ve ever lied about yourself or committed fraud to let someone else enter the country illegally. Although it might not be directly related to your criminal history, it will have a significant impact on whether you qualify for an ESTA. This is so that your ESTA application won’t be approved if you have engaged in fraud or deception, which is illegal in the United States.

Always disclose your criminal record!

You may wonder if there is a way to apply for the ESTA without disclosing your criminal history, but this is a risky path to take. You will undoubtedly be apprehended at some point because the United States is very strict about denying entry to people who can commit serious crimes and harm American citizens.

Travelling to the USA with a criminal record

If you are unable to obtain an ESTA, you should consider applying for a visa instead. When applying for a visa, you can also describe the criminal record in greater detail. This will allow the authorities to examine your case on its own merits. You may be able to secure a visa interview despite your criminal record, depending on the rest of your personal history.

Fill out every question on the ESTA form completely, including the ESTA social media questions and criminal record questions. If you do not have an ESTA permit, there are other ways to enter the United States.


My ESTA was denied because of my criminal record. What should I do?
If you are unable to obtain an ESTA, you may apply for a tourist or business visa. However, the visa application process may take longer, so you should begin as soon as possible.

Will I be eligible for ESTA with a good behavior bond?
If you answered yes to any of the criminal record questions on the ESTA application, a good behavior bond will not help you. However, it may help your visa application.

I was convicted. Can I get an ESTA?
In conclusion, only if your offence was not significant or repeated could you apply for an ESTA despite having a criminal record. You must truthfully respond “no” to the form’s inquiries about your criminal history.


As long as your crime was not serious, you may be able to enter America if you follow the proper procedures. However, using a visa rather than an ESTA is the safest way for anyone with a criminal record to enter the United States.