Can Tattoos Actually Affect Your Green Card Chances? Apparently Yes!

Posted by Phoenix Immigration Attorney Nick Alcock:

No kidding, certain tattoos may actually derail immigration applications mainly because of gang fears. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the U.S. State Department is increasingly denying “inked” immigrants’ efforts to get green cards and become legal U.S. residents. Dozens of Latin Americans without criminal convictions have been denied green cards or permanent residency since 2006 based partly on the assumption that some tattoos reveal affiliation with criminal gangs.

Many tattoos, but certainly not all, are associates to organized crime groups, mainly in Latin American countries. That can give rise to possible affiliation with those groups, and can justify a green-card denial based on national-security grounds, the Journal reports. The State Department denied 82 visas in 2010, citing a “reason to believe” the applicants were tied to organized crime. That’s up from just two denials in 2006.

But is a tattoo a valid reason to deny a green card application?

While certain tattoos are linked with criminal organizations, they aren’t exclusively used by gang members, and lawyers for immigrants whose applications for green cards and permanent residency have been denied say U.S. immigration officials are rejecting people based on the assumption of guilt without evidence of gang affiliation. Clients are being unfairly labeled as criminals and refused green cards solely based on their tattoos.

One Mexican immigrant interviewed by the Journal, says he got a string of tattoos because he likes the way they look, but denies having affiliation with any gangs. When he traveled to Mexico for an interview with American consular officials as part of his permanent residency application, U.S. officials denied his reentry because of the tattoos.

While the State Department agents are paying more attention to tattoos “as indicators of gang affiliation during the visa process,” it says it does not base a decision to deny a request solely on an applicant’s tattoos. Though a tattoo alone likely isn’t enough to get an applicant denied, tattooed green card seekers should be aware of other valid reasons for the denial or revocation of green cards. They include committing crimes, engaging in politically subversive activities, leaving important parts blank on immigration applications (for example, your addresses for the past five years) and/or lying on government forms and applications.

Some tattooed green card applicants are retaining immigration attorneys to appeal their denials, which in some cases result in cross-border families being kept apart.

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