Transgressions that occur in the United Kingdom are complicated due to the existence of a “caution” process where the “caution” serves as 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 nor were they considered convictions by U.S. immigration law.
In 2008, the U.K government altered the language contained in a “caution” such that the U.S. Department of State started to treat a “caution” as an admission. This is especially significant when the “caution” was issued for controlled substance violation or a crime involving moral turpitude. Consequently, individuals who have received such a “caution” may be ineligible to receive a U.S. visa, unless they obtain a waiver approval.
Although the alteration of the language contained in the “caution” took place as early as 2008, AILA, a national association of about 13,000 practitioners, only started reporting a trend with this issue since early 2014. They have also reported that this change affects individual’s using the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), therefore foreign nationals who have received a “caution” or multiple “cautions” for crimes involving moral turpitude or controlled substance offenses may not be eligible to travel under the VWP and we recommend consulting with our office prior to planning a trip to the U.S.
Our practice has always been to carefully assess such cases and include waiver packets when appropriate to reduce potential delays at the consulate.