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US Grounds of Inadmissibility

There are two categories under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) for grounds of removal from the United States. The categories are: grounds of inadmissibility under § 212(a) and grounds of Deportation under § 237(a)(1)(A). While these two sections of the law have similarities, they differ in their application. The grounds of inadmissibility are applied to those that wish to enter the United States and have not yet been granted admission. The grounds of deportation are applied to those who have been allowed entry into the United States, and physically reside within the United States, but who can now be deported due to some legal violation.

To enter the United States, a foreign person must meet all applicable requirements and show that they  are not inadmissible under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act. There are several grounds of inadmissibility. The most common are detailed below.

  • Medical-Related Grounds of Inadmissibility [INA § 212(a)(1)]: A foreign person seeking entry to the United States will be denied if they are determined to have a communicable disease of public significance (in accordance with the Department of Health and Human Services' regulations). Such diseases include the following, but are not limited to gonorrhea, leprosy (infectious), syphilis (infectious stage), and tuberculosis (active). The following are also medical-related grounds of inadmissibility:
    • An immigrant fails to submit proof of required vaccinations.
    • The immigrant suffers from a physical or mental disorder with associated harmful behavior.
    • The immigrant suffers from substance abuse or addiction.
  • Criminal Grounds of Inadmissibility [INA § 212(a)(2)]: A foreign national seeking entry to the United States will be denied entry if s/he has been convicted or, admits to having committed, either a crime involving moral turpitude, or a controlled substance-related offense. The most common crimes involving moral turpitude may include the following: fraud, theft, or intent to hurt persons or property.
      • Special Cases for children: The criminal grounds of inadmissibility will not apply to a foreign person if they committed a crime involving moral turpitude when they were under the age of 18, and they committed the crime more than 5 years before they applied for entry into the United States.
      • Exceptions for Petty Offenses: The criminal grounds of inadmissibility will not apply if the foreign person committed a crime involving moral turpitude with a maximum punishment of imprisonment of one year or, if the foreign person was convicted of such a crime and their sentence was not more than 6 months imprisonment.
    • Multiple Convictions [INA § 212(a)(2)(B)]: Any foreign person having been convicted of 2 or more crimes, for which their combined sentences were 5 years imprisonment or more, will be found inadmissible.
    • Drug Trafficking [INA § 212(a)(2)(C)]: Any foreign person will be inadmissible to the United States if he or she is or has been a trafficker of controlled substances or has knowingly aided or abetted others in the trafficking of any controlled substances.
    • Prostitution [INA § 212(a)(2)(D)]: Any foreign person who prostitutes, or has sought to procure prostitutes within the past 10 years, or plans on coming to the United States to continue to engage in prostitution, will be found inadmissible.
    • Human Trafficking [INA § 212(a)(2)(H)]: Any foreign person who commits or conspires to commit human trafficking offenses in the U.S. or outside the U.S., or who is reasonably suspected or known to have aided or abetted a human trafficker will be found inadmissible.
      • EXCEPTION: The foreign person will not be inadmissible if they were an underage son or daughter of a trafficker when they received the benefits of the illicit trafficking.
    • Money Laundering [INA § 212(a)(2)(I)]:Any foreign national that has or is suspected of having engaged in money laundering, or seeks to continue to engage in money laundering in the United States, or is known to have aided or abetted money launderers, will be found inadmissible.
  • Economic Grounds of Inadmissibility [INA § 212(a)(4)]: 
    • Any foreign person who is believed to be a “public charge” will be found inadmissible. A “public charge” is defined as a person who “by reason of poverty, insanity, disease or disability would become a charge upon the public.” A “public charge” has been further defined by the USCIS as a person who is “likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either (1) the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or (2) institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.”
  • Illegal Entrants & Immigration Violators [INA § 212(a)(6)]:
    • Present Without Admission or Parole [INA § 212(a)(6)(A)(i)]:Any foreign person present in the United States without having been admitted or paroled will be found inadmissible.
    • Failure to Attend Removal Proceeding [INA § 212(a)(6)(B)]:Any foreign person who, without cause, fails to attend the proceeding which will determine their inadmissibility will be inadmissible to the United States for 5 years after their departure.
    • Fraud and Misrepresentation [INA § 212(a)(6)(C)]: Any foreign person who wishes to enter the United States under false pretenses by misrepresenting a material fact or by obtaining fraudulent documentation will be found inadmissible.
    • Falsely Claiming Citizenship: Any foreign national who falsely claims, or has claimed to be a citizen of the United States for personal benefit under the INA or any other Federal or State law will be found inadmissible.
    • Smugglers [INA § 212(a)(6)(E)]: Any foreign person who has ever knowingly aided or abetted any other foreign person to enter or attempt to enter the United States via illegal means will be found inadmissible.
  • Documentation Requirements [INA § 212(a)(7)]:
    • Lack of Documents [INA § 212(a)(7)(A)(i)(I)]: This is the most frequently applied grounds of inadmissibility. Any foreign person who seeks to gain entry into the United States and reside here indefinitely, but lacks the formal documents to show that they have permission to do so will be found inadmissible.
  • Foreign Persons Previously Removed [INA § 212(a)(9)]:
    • Arriving Foreign Nationals [INA § 212(a)(9)(A)(i)]: Any foreign person who has been already been removed and who seeks to gain entry into the United States within 5 years of their removal will be found inadmissible.
    • Foreign Nationals Unlawfully Present [INA § 212(a)(9)(B)]: Any foreign person who has been illegally in the United States for more than 180 days but for less than one year will be inadmissible to the U.S. for 3 years. In the case that the foreign person has been illegally present in the United States for one year or more, they will be inadmissible for a period of 10 years.
    • Illegal Presence After Previous Violation [INA § 212(a)(9)(C)]: Any foreign person who has resided illegally in the U.S. for a combined duration of more than one year, or who has been removed from the United States, who then seeks to gain entry to the United States without permission will be inadmissible for life.
  • Miscellaneous Grounds of Inadmissibility [INA § 212(a)(10)]: These are grounds of inadmissibility which do not fall under any of the previous categories. Any foreign national will be found inadmissible for the following:
    • Practicing Polygamy
    • International Child Abduction
    • Illegal Voters
    • Ineligible for Citizenship
    • Foreign Persons who Evaded the Draft

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