What does it mean to be ‘inadmissible’?

Applicants who are ‘inadmissible’ are not permitted by law to enter or remain in the United States. In other words, applicants who have a ‘ground of inadmissibility’ against them cannot obtain a family green card unless one of two things happen:

  1. The applicant is exempt from the ground of inadmissibility because of an exception that has been written into the U.S. immigration law.
  2. The applicant submits and obtains a ‘waiver’ to ‘overcome’ the ground of inadmissibility. In other words, applicants ask U.S. immigration agencies that the ground of inadmissibility against them be removed (‘forgiveness’).

What are the categories of inadmissibility?

The most frequent categories of inadmissibility include –>

Immigration History:

  • Entry without inspection (entering the United States without being inspected and admitted, or without being inspected and paroled)
  • Having been in the United States for a period in excess of 180 days, during a single stay, and then departed the United States. (3-year bar from returning to the United States)
  • Having been removed (or excluded or deported) from the United States or departed the United States on their own volition while a final order of removal was outstanding.
  • Having been unlawfully in the United States for a total of one year (whether accrued during a single stay or multiple stays) AND then, illegally reentered the United States. (permanent bar from returning to the United States)
  • Fraud and misrepresentation (Any person who seeks admission to the United States, a visa or other immigration travel or entry document, or any immigration benefit by fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact is inadmissible)
  • Having failed to attend immigration and/or removal hearings
  • Having renounced U.S. citizenship to avoid taxation


  • Having a communicable disease of public health significance;
  • Having failed to receive necessary vaccinations against vaccine-preventable diseases;
  • Having a physical or mental disorder combined with a harmful behavior;
  • Being a drug abuser or addict.

Criminal activity:

  • Crimes involving “moral turpitude.” The term moral turpitude is not defined under federal law. However, courts in the United States have defined it generally as an act that is inherently base, vile, or depraved, and contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties owed between persons or to society in general.
  • Violation of any controlled substance law. Any violation of any laws, foreign or domestic, relating to illegal drugs can be a ground of inadmissibility.
  • Multiple Criminal Convictions. Any person convicted of two or more crimes is inadmissible if the person was sentenced to five or more total years in prison (counting the sentences in the aggregate). This applies regardless of whether the crimes involved moral turpitude or the multiple convictions arose from a single trial or scheme of misconduct.
  • Drug trafficking. If any immigration officer “knows or has reason to believe” that a person has been involved in trafficking in controlled substances, that person is inadmissible to the United States. This includes individuals who aid, abet, conspire, or collude with others in illicit drug trafficking.
  • Prostitution. Any person coming to the United States to engage in prostitution, or any person who has engaged in prostitution within ten years of his or her application for a visa, adjustment of status, or entry into the United States, is inadmissible. This also applies to those who have made a profit from prostitution.
  • Commercialized Vice. Any person coming to the United States to engage in the unlawful promotion of, or participation in, sexual activities for profit (such as solicit customers, transport persons, or operate an establishment for prostitution purposes) is inadmissible.
  • Commission of a serious crime in the United States where a person has asserted immunity from prosecution. Any person who has committed a serious criminal offense and is granted immunity from criminal prosecution is inadmissible if he or she leaves the United States and fails to return and submit him or herself to the jurisdiction of the federal court overseeing the criminal case.
  • Violations of Religious Freedom. Any person who, while serving as a foreign government official, was responsible for or directly carried out particularly severe violations of religious freedom is inadmissible.
  • Human Trafficking. Any person who commits or conspires to commit human trafficking, or aids, abets, or colludes with an individual who is a trafficker in the United States or outside the United States is inadmissible.
  • Money Laundering. Any person who is engaged, is engaging, or seeks to enter the United States to engage in the concealment of the origins of illegally obtained money is inadmissible.
  • National security.

    Applicants may be found inadmissible if a Department of State consular officer, DHS immigration officer, or DOJ immigration judge, knows or has reasonable ground to believe that the non-citizen:

    • Seeks to enter the United States to engage in espionage or sabotage, to attempt to overthrow the U.S. government, or to engage in any unlawful activity
    • Has participated in any terrorist activities or has any association with terrorist organizations, governments or individuals
    • Presents a threat to foreign policy or has membership in any totalitarian party
    • Has participated in Nazi persecutions or genocide

    Public charge

    A public charge is a person who is primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. Applicants likely to become a public charge are inadmissible)

    Alien Smuggling

    “Alien smuggling” is the term given to the act of assisting anyone in any way and at any time to enter the United States unlawfully, regardless of whether that person is a family member, or whether it was done for monetary gain. Alien smuggling does not just cover professional smugglers; it also applies to people who bring in their family members.)

    Practicing polygamists

    Applicants who are planning to practice the custom of having more than one wife or husband at the same time are inadmissible.

    Unlawful Voters

    Applicants who were not allowed to vote in a Federal, state, or local election but voted anyway are inadmissible.

    Student visa abusers

    International child abductors and relatives of such abductors