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Will Your Tattoo Keep You Out of the U.S.?

According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, “tattoo checks have ensnared scores of immigrants – mostly from Latin America – even though they have no criminal conviction.”  Known affiliation with violent gangs or criminal organizations can result in the denial of a visa or a green card.  Such denials are based on a section of immigration law that allows a determination of “inadmissibility” to be made on national-security grounds, which include possible affiliation with criminal organizations.
However, it is reported that many tattoos traditionally associated with gang membership have now been adopted by the wider public.  Examples given include the  “Smile Now, Cry Later” design (two theatrical masks) and the two three-dot triangle tattoo, commonly referred to as “mi vida loca,” which means “my crazy life.”
While the presence of a tattoo is not enough to deny an application, a spokesperson from the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs confirms, “more attention has been paid to tattoos as indicators of gang affiliation during the visa process.”  Critics caution the practice may violate first amendment freedom of speech and expression and at least one lawsuit has already being filed in District Court.
If you have concerns over admissibility issues to the U.S., contact our office to schedule a consultation.
Page Summary:  Gang-related tattoos may trigger increased scrutiny at border crossings and visa interviews.