In the U.K., the police and Crown Prosecution Service have the option to issue “cautions” for certain minor offenses as an alternative to prosecution. The individual must effectively admit to the offense and “accept” the caution. The U.K. criminal record system does not record it as a conviction, and historically has been treated by the Department of State (DOS) as not constituting a conviction under U.S. immigration law. DOS confirmed this interpretation in 1997. In 2013, the U.S. Embassy in London requested new guidance from the DOS. Since that time, the U.S. Embassy has been placing cases involving cautions for controlled substances and certain crimes involving moral turpitude into administrative processing until new guidance is received from DOS.
Just recently, the State Department’s Visa Office stated that while cautions do not constitute convictions for the purpose of making ineligibility determinations, it warned that the existence of a caution could provide the basis for an ineligibility finding as an admission to either a crime involving moral turpitude, or to a violation relating to a controlled substance.
Applicants with cautions for offenses that would render them ineligible for a visa may in fact be refused a visa, and a waiver of inadmissibility may be required if such a waiver is available. Visa applicants with “cautions” issued in the UK are advised to seek immigration advice from their immigration lawyer before applying for a new visa.