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|Look up moral turpitude in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
Moral turpitude is a legal concept in the United States that refers to "conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals." It appears in U.S. immigration law from the nineteenth century. In other common law jurisdictions it is dated or obsolete.
The concept of moral turpitude escapes precise definition but has been described as an "act of baseness, vileness or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man."
The classification of a crime or other conduct as constituting moral turpitude has significance in several areas of law. First, prior conviction of a crime of moral turpitude (or in some jurisdictions, moral turpitude conduct, even without a conviction) is considered to have a bearing on the honesty of a witness and may be used for purposes of witness impeachment. Second, moral turpitude offenses may be grounds to deny or revoke a professional license such as a teaching credential, license to practice law, or other licensed profession. Third, it is of great importance for immigration purposes, as offenses which are defined as involving moral turpitude are considered bars to immigration into the U.S.
A conviction for a crime of moral turpitude (CIMT) causes a person to be inadmissible to the United States under section 212(a)(2)(a)(i) of the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act). There are petty offense exceptions to this rule, but these exceptions do not change the meaning of the question on the Visa Waiver Program or on the visa application form, and cannot be self-certified. A controlled substance violation causes the alien to be inadmissible to the United States under section 212(a)(2)(i)(II) of the INA. They are two different sections of the law. A controlled substance violation is a CIMT. The immigration administrative proceeding does not use a controlled substance violation as a CIMT. A visa waiver program applicant admissibility is determined at the port of entry and they are subject to section 212(a) and 217 of the INA.
The first question on document I-94W for those visiting the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program asks:
Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude or a violation related to a controlled substance; or been arrested or convicted for two or more offenses for which the aggregate sentence to confinement was five years or more; or been controlled substance trafficker; or are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities?
Little guidance is provided to the traveler as to which offenses are included in the definition; however the website of the U.S. embassy in London states that a visa is required for anyone who has ever been arrested or convicted for any offense. This appears to be at variance with the question on form I-94W and information supplied by the US Department of Homeland Security, as there are many offenses that are not considered to involve moral turpitude
For offenses (or arrests on suspicion of such offenses) occurring outside the U.S., the locally defined offense must be considered against the U.S. definitions, and in such cases it is the definition of the offense (as defined in the appropriate country) which is considered for immigration purposes, and not the circumstances of the individual's actual case.
|Category||Crimes involving moral turpitude||Crimes not involving moral turpitude|
|Crimes Against Property||Fraud:|
|Crimes Committed Against Governmental Authority|
|Crimes Committed Against Person, Family Relationship, and Sexual Morality|
|Attempts, Aiding and Abetting, Accessories and Conspiracy|
|From the United States Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual|