Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Find a Lawyer

More Options

How Tattoos Are Causing Green Card Denials

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

Can tattoos affect green card applications? Apparently yes, as the State Department is increasingly denying inked immigrants' efforts to get green cards and become legal U.S. residents, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Certain tattoos are linked 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, according to The Journal.

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

Not in and of itself, a State Department spokeswoman told The Journal. But screeners are paying more attention to tattoos "as indicators of gang affiliation during the visa process," she said.

However, some immigration lawyers say their clients are being unfairly labeled as criminals and denied green cards just because of their tattoos. Some tattoos, like one that depicts a pair of smiling and crying theater masks, are no longer exclusive to gangs and have become mainstream, gang experts told The Journal.

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).
  • Lying on government forms and applications.

Some tattooed green card applicants are retaining immigration lawyers to appeal their denials, which in some cases result in cross-border families being kept apart. For more information on obtaining a green card, check out FindLaw's Green Card section and download our free Guide to Applying for Your Green Card.

Related Resources:

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:
Copied to clipboard