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The critical component of United States immigration law is the so-called grounds of inadmissibility. This is often an area of which people have only a vague awareness. For example, most people understand that criminal issues will create a problem for their visa case. That is because criminal issues brush up against the grounds of inadmissibility pertaining to criminal conduct. But there are many, many more grounds of inadmissibility besides criminal matters. Without understanding the grounds of inadmissibility, you cannot possibly assess whether your visa case is likely to run into trouble.
So what are the grounds of inadmissibility? The answer involves a double negative. In order to qualify for a visa or to enter the United States, a person has to be not inadmissible. In other words, if you have any facts that fall into one of the grounds of inadmissibility, you will not receive your visa or be allowed into the country. There is fine print on that qualifies that statement, but that is the basic idea.
When do the grounds of inadmissibility come into play? In at least two situations. First, the grounds of inadmissibility will be examined during the application process for your visa or adjustment of status. That is the main context that we will be worried about in this resource. The application paperwork will ask you questions pertaining to these issues, and the officer conducting your ultimate interview will be again screaming for inadmissibility issues. Second, the grounds of inadmissibility will be examined at the time you enter the states. Given the format of border inspections – most are very brief – the usual inspection will not touch on all or even many of the grounds of inadmissibility. But they are all fair game for questioning the time you enter the states. So situations that arise between the time of your visa interview and the time that you enter the United States could potentially create problems with the port of entry.
I have written this section to focus on the inadmissibility issues that come up most commonly. But I also touch on the less common ones that you should at least consider. Do not file your case without carefully reviewing this section of the resource. You can’t possibly know what you don’t know. Do not assume that you have no legal problems in your case without taking the time to understand the grounds of inadmissibility.
In each of the following sections I have included the legal citation to the Immigration and Nationality Act provision that governs a particular ground of inadmissibility. This will make it easier for you to locate additional resources if you decide further research is warranted for a particular round of inadmissibility.