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U.K. Caution Issue has U.S. Immigration Implications

In the United Kingdom, a “caution” is a formal notice, issued by a police officer, for minor offenses as an alternative to costly and time-consuming prosecution. A caution is not considered a conviction by U.K. law. Cautions were also not considered convictions by U.S. immigration law, but that is beginning to change. (What is the U.S. Visa Application Process?)
According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association, they are now finding that the U.S. Embassy in London is treating cautions as convictions for the purpose of issuing visas. The U.S. Embassy London requested new guidance from the Department of State in the fall of 2013. Since that request, U.S. Embassy London has been placing cases where applicants previously received “cautions” for controlled substances and crimes involving moral turpitude into administrative processing until the official opinion from the DOS is received. (What is a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude?)
The Embassy has advised that it will look at the facts surrounding each case on an individual basis. Applicants with cautions for offenses that would render them ineligible for a visa (controlled substances and certain crimes involving moral turpitude) should be warned that their visa application could be denied. If this is the case, a nonimmigrant waiver would be required.
This decision may also affect nonimmigrant visa applicants with cautions who were previously approved for a visa. In order to renew their visa, these applicants may now have to obtain a waiver and wait the standard processing times which can typically run for a number of months.
While official guidance on this matter has not yet been published by the Department of State, AILA reports that the embassy may already have received this guidance.
If you were issued a caution and would like to enter the United States, or have any questions regarding U.S. immigration law, please contact one of our immigration attorneys today.