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Visa Ineligibility due to Membership in Criminal Organizations

By George Lake

The United States, like many countries, maintains strict immigration policies to ensure the safety and security of its citizens and residents. One such provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that plays a pivotal role in safeguarding national interests is INA 212(a)(3)(A)(ii). This section addresses visa ineligibility and the potential denial of a visa application if the applicant is suspected of being an active member of certain criminal organizations.

INA 212(a)(3)(A)(ii): Understanding the Provision

INA 212(a)(3)(A)(ii) is a subsection of the Immigration and Nationality Act that deals with the grounds of visa ineligibility. Specifically, it pertains to individuals who are believed to be associated with criminal organizations. The provision states that a visa applicant can be deemed ineligible for a U.S. visa if there are reasonable grounds to believe that they are an active member of a criminal organization.

Specified Criminal Organizations

The provision identifies several criminal organizations that can trigger visa ineligibility if an applicant is found to be an active member. These organizations include:

  • The Chinese Triads: An extensive and secretive criminal organization with historical roots in China.
  • The Mafia: Referring to various Italian-American organized crime syndicates known for their influence in organized crime.
  • The Yakuza: A notorious Japanese criminal organization with deep-rooted criminal activities.
  • Former Soviet Union Groups: Various criminal groups operating in countries that were part of the former Soviet Union, such as Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
  • Central and North American Street Gangs: This category includes organized street gangs from Central and North America, including notorious groups like MS-13 and Mexican Mafia.
  • Primeiro Comando da Capital (First Capital Command): A criminal organization based in Brazil with a history of violence and criminal operations.
  • Biker Gangs: Such as the Hells Angels, Outlaws, Bandidos, and Mongols, known for their involvement in organized crime and illegal activities.

Implications of Visa Denial

When an applicant is suspected of being an active member of any of these criminal organizations, their visa application can be denied under INA 221(g). This denial typically leads to a request for an Advisory Opinion (AO) through the appropriate channels within the U.S. Department of State. The purpose of this process is to seek guidance and gather additional information to make an informed decision regarding the applicant’s eligibility for a U.S. visa.

It’s essential to understand that the denial of a visa application based on INA 212(a)(3)(A)(ii) can have serious consequences for the applicant. They may be barred from entering the United States. 

If you believe you may be ineligible for a visa due to association with a criminal organization, you may be able to avoid denial by pre-emptively applying for a waiver of inadmissibility.


INA 212(a)(3)(A)(ii) serves as a critical component of U.S. immigration policy, aiming to protect the country from potential threats posed by individuals associated with criminal organizations. While it is designed to ensure national security, it is equally important for authorities to thoroughly investigate and assess each case to avoid any unjust denials. If an applicant believes they have been wrongly accused of association with a criminal organization, they should seek legal counsel with an experienced US immigration attorney to navigate the complexities of U.S. immigration law and explore avenues for addressing the denial.

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