Security Violations That Make You Inadmissible to the U.S.

Looking to enter the U.S.? Does the government suspect you of being a terrorist? You'd be surprised at how little it takes to raise red flags.

Having a record of certain security violations can make a person inadmissible to the United States – that is, ineligible to receive a visa, green card (lawful permanent residence), or other form of entry to the U.S., regardless of whether the person otherwise meets the criteria to receive such a benefit.

Exactly which security violations are a problem? The list is contained in Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act or I.N.A. Below is a brief summary of who is inadmissible under this section of the law.

List of Security Violations

The following people are inadmissible to the U.S.:

  • Any alien who a consular officer or the Attorney General knows, or has reasonable ground to believe, seeks to enter the United States to for purposes of:
    • espionage, sabotage, violations or evasions of law prohibiting the export of goods, technology, or sensitive information from the United States
    • any other unlawful activity, or
    • any activity in opposition to, or with the purpose of controlling or overthrowing the U.S. government by force, violence, or other unlawful means.
    • Any alien who:
      • has engaged in terrorist activity
      • a consular officer, the Attorney General, or the Secretary of Homeland Security knows, or has reasonable ground to believe, is engaged in or is likely to engage in any terrorist activity in the U.S.
      • has, under circumstances indicating an intention to cause death or serious bodily harm, incited terrorist activity
      • is a representative of a terrorist organization or a political, social, or other group that endorses or espouses terrorist activity ("representative" being defined as an officer, official, or spokesman of an organization, or any person who directs, counsels, commands, or induces an organization or its members to engage in terrorist activity)
      • is a member of a terrorist organization on the U.S. government’s list of designated terrorist organization; or of another organization that meets the definition of terrorist, unless the person can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he or she did not know, and should not reasonably have known, that it was a terrorist organization.
      • endorses or espouses terrorist activity or persuades others to endorse or espouse terrorist activity or support a terrorist organization
      • has received military-type training from or on behalf of any a terrorist organization, or
      • is the spouse or child of an alien who is inadmissible for reasons relating to terrorism, if the relevant activity occurred within the last five years, unless the spouse or child did not know or should not reasonably have known of the terrorist activities, or whom the consular officer or Attorney General has reasonable grounds to believe has renounced terrorist activity.

What Is Terrorist Activity?

In order to interpret the above, you need to know what, the term "terrorist activity" means. According to the statute, it includes any activity that is either unlawful where committed or which, had it been committed in the U.S., would have been unlawful under its federal or state laws, and which involves any of the following:

  • hijacking or sabotage of a conveyance (such as an aircraft, vessel, or vehicle)
  • seizing or detaining, and threatening to kill, injure, or continue to detain, another person in order to compel a third person (or a governmental organization) to do or abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the person’s release
  • a violent attack upon an internationally protected person or upon the liberty of such a person
  • assassination
  • using any biological agent, chemical agent, or nuclear weapon or device, or any explosive, firearm, or other weapon or dangerous device (other than for mere personal monetary gain), with intent to endanger, directly or indirectly, the safety of one or more people or to cause substantial damage to property
  • a threat, attempt, or conspiracy to do any of the things mentioned above.

What Does "Engage in Terrorist Activity" Mean?

It also helps to understand the term "engage in terrorist activity." The statute defines this to include the following, whether in an individual capacity or as a member of an organization:

  • to commit or to incite to commit, under circumstances indicating an intention to cause death or serious bodily injury, a terrorist activity
  • to prepare or plan a terrorist activity
  • to gather information on potential targets for terrorist activity
  • to solicit funds or other things of value for a terrorist activity or a listed terrorist organization; or for another organization that meets the definition of terrorist, unless the person can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he or she did not know, and should not reasonably have known, that it was a terrorist organization
  • to solicit any individual to engage in terrorist conduct or to join a listed terrorist organization or to join another terrorist organization, unless the person can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he or she did not know, and should not reasonably have known, that it was a terrorist organization
  • to commit an act that the person knows, or reasonably should know, affords material support, including a safe house, transportation, communications, funds, transfer of funds or other material financial benefit, false documentation or identification, weapons (including chemical, biological, or radiological weapons), explosives, or training, either for the commission of a terrorist activity or to anyone whom the person knows, or reasonably should know, has committed or plans to commit a terrorist activity, or to a listed terrorist organization or any member thereof, or to another terrorist organization or member unless the person can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he or she did not know, and should not reasonably have known, that it was a terrorist organization.

What Is a "Terrorist Organization?"

The term “terrorist organization” is defined in this portion of the immigration laws to mean an organization that is either:

  • designated by the U.S. government under Section 219 of the I.N.A.; for the latest list, see the Foreign Terrorist Organizations page of the State Department website.
  • otherwise designated by the U.S. government, upon publication in the Federal Register, or
  • a group of two or more individuals, whether organized or not, which engages in, or has a subgroup that engages in, the activities described as terrorist under this section of the law.

When to See a Lawyer

Please do not rely on the above summary alone to analyze your case. In fact, if you any sort of record of affiliation with a group that the U.S. views as terrorist, or record of activities such as described above, it will be essential for you to consult with an experienced immigration attorney before going forward with any sort of application for a U.S. immigration benefit.

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