What Is a Criminal Waiver?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 23 January 2020
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A criminal waiver is an exception to a exclusionary clause forbidding people with criminal histories from engaging in activities like joining the armed services or applying for citizenship. Under normal circumstances, individuals with criminal pasts may be excluded from these activities on the grounds of concerns about their moral characters. The criminal waiver allows them to bypass this exclusion, although it does not make them automatically eligible for immigration or military service; it simply removes an exclusion that would normally preclude accepting an application.

In the case of entrants into the military, all criminal history, including expunged and juvenile records, must be discussed with the recruiter. If an applicant has a criminal past, she can discuss the situation with the recruiter to determine if she is eligible for a criminal waiver. In the event of eligibility, the recruiter will conduct an investigation and determine if the waiver should be issued. The recruit will also need to pass other standards tests for military service, such as meeting physical performance requirements.


Immigrants can also be eligible for criminal waivers in some situations. This is most common in the case of criminal convictions related to political crimes. The immigration authorities can grant a waiver on the grounds that the immigrant experienced political persecution in his home nation, and should not be denied a chance to immigrate on these grounds. As with a military criminal waiver, this will require successful passage of an investigation where officials will look into the specifics of the situation and determine whether the applicant is eligible.

The criminal waiver is only one aspect of a larger application. It can be critical for moving an application through, as otherwise authorities will reject the applicant on the grounds of her criminal history, but it is not the only step. While applying for a criminal waiver, applicants should also work on satisfying other requirements to make sure their applications will not be held up with issues like not having fingerprints on file or failing to have obtained valid copies of birth certificates and other documents.

Applicants who encounter problems with the process may find it helpful to consult an attorney. A lawyer can review the situation and apply experiences with previous cases to develop an effective and persuasive application. The attorney can also provide assistance if there are questions about whether the applicant is eligible for the waiver; attorneys are familiar with all the relevant laws and can offer guidance in nebulous or disputed cases.


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