Getting into The US with ESTA and Definitions of Moral Turpitude


Traditionally travellers to the USA would have to go through clearance at their own airports (especially when flying with an airline like American Airlines) and then have to go through clearance when in the USA - usually twice if it they have to get a connecting flight. With ESTA Authorization, USA Travel Registration can now be done from the comfort of your own home. If ESTA do not deem you suitable to visit the US, you will be notified (this if often if you have committed acts of "Moral Turpitude").

If you have committed an act of Moral Turpitude as defined by ESTA, then you will be given notice via email. The benefits of this for the traveller are being able to know before they purchase tickets whether they are able to enter the USA or not, saving the purchase fares and the extreme inconvenience of being sent home on a plane and often having to pay for it yourself after you have arrived in the US.

You will still be asked the normal questions at customs in the US about your trip (for example where are you staying, how long are you planning on being in the USA for) and the USA travel registration does not guarantee you entry into the country, however it should make your whole trip easier and safer for everybody!

Definitions of Moral Turpitude

Category Crimes involving moral turpitude Crimes not involving moral turpitude
Crimes Against Property
  • Making false representation
  • Knowledge of such false representation by the perpetrator
  • Reliance on the false representation by the person defrauded
  • An intent to defraud
  • The actual act of committing fraud

Evil intent:

  • Arson
  • Blackmail
  • Burglary
  • Embezzlement
  • Extortion
  • False pretenses
  • Forgery
  • Fraud
  • Larceny (grand or petty)
  • Malicious destruction of property
  • Receiving stolen goods (with guilty knowledge)
  • Robbery
  • Theft (when it involves the intention of permanent taking)
  • Transporting stolen property (with guilty knowledge)
  • Damaging private property (where intent to damage not required)
  • Breaking and entering (requiring no specific or implicit intent to commit a crime involving moral turpitude)
  • Passing bad checks (where intent to defraud not required)
  • Possessing stolen property (if guilty knowledge is not essential)
  • Joy riding (where the intention to take permanently not required)
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Trespassing
Crimes Committed Against Governmental Authority
  • Bribery
  • Counterfeiting
  • Fraud against revenue or other government functions
  • Mail fraud
  • Perjury
  • Harboring a fugitive from justice (with guilty knowledge)
  • Tax evasion (willful)
  • Black market violations
  • Breach of the peace
  • Carrying a concealed weapon
  • Desertion from the Armed Forces
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Drunk or reckless driving
  • Driving while license suspended or revoked
  • Drunkenness
  • Escape from prison
  • Failure to report for military induction
  • False statements (not amounting to perjury or involving fraud)
  • Firearm violations
  • Gambling violations
  • Immigration violations
  • Liquor violations
  • Loan sharking
  • Lottery violations
  • Minor traffic violations
  • Possessing burglar tools (without intent to commit burglary)
  • Smuggling and customs violations (where intent to commit fraud is absent)
  • Tax evasion (without intent to defraud)
  • Vagrancy
Crimes Committed Against Person, Family Relationship, and Sexual Morality
  • Abandonment of a minor child (if willful and resulting in the destitution of the child)
  • Adultery (see INA 101** repealed by Public Law 97-116)
  • Assault (this crime is broken down into several categories, which involve moral turpitude):
    • Assault with intent to kill, commit rape, commit robbery or commit serious bodily harm
    • Assault with a dangerous or deadly weapon
  • Bigamy
  • Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
  • Gross indecency
  • Incest (if the result of an improper sexual relationship)
  • Kidnapping
  • Lewdness
  • Manslaughter:
    • Voluntary
    • Involuntary (where the statute requires proof of recklessness, which is defined as the awareness and conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustified risk which constitutes a gross deviation from the standard that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. A conviction for the statutory offense of vehicular homicide or other involuntary manslaughter only requires a showing of negligence will not involve moral turpitude even if it appears the defendant in fact acted recklessly)
  • Mayhem
  • Murder
  • Pandering
  • Prostitution
  • Rape (including "Statutory rape" by virtue of the victim's age)
  • Sodomy
  • Assault (simple) (i.e., any assault, which does not require an evil intent or depraved motive, although it may involve the use of a weapon, which is neither dangerous nor deadly)
  • Bastardy (i.e., the offense of begetting a bastard child)
  • Creating or maintaining a nuisance (where knowledge that premises were used for prostitution is not necessary)
  • Fornication
  • Incest (when a result of a marital status prohibited by law)
  • Involuntary manslaughter (when killing is not the result of recklessness)
  • Libel
  • Mailing an obscene letter
  • Mann Act violations (where coercion is not present)
  • Riot
  • Suicide (attempted)
Attempts, Aiding and Abetting, Accessories and Conspiracy
  • An attempt to commit a crime deemed to involve moral turpitude
  • Aiding and abetting in the commission of a crime deemed to involve moral turpitude
  • Being an accessory (before or after the fact) in the commission of a crime deemed to involve moral turpitude
  • Taking part in a conspiracy (or attempting to take part in a conspiracy) to commit a crime involving moral turpitude where the attempted crime would not itself constitute moral turpitude.


From the United States Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual

Getting into the USA, ESTA, Moral Turpitude explained, ESTA Image

ESTA Travel Registration for USA

As of 12th January 2009 everyone wanting to travel to USA from the 26 countries that do not require a Visa at the moment will have to complete an online US Travel Registration ESTA form up to 3 days before the trip. This will help travelers register for 2 years for entry into the US for holidays. If you are traveling from any of these countries to USA you will need to complete the online ESTA form.

The current countries covered by the ESTA Via Waiver Program are:

Andorra Iceland Norway Austria Italy San Marino Germany
Australia Ireland Portugal Belgium Japan Singapore New Zealand
Brunei Liechtenstein Slovenia Finland Monaco Sweden United Kingdom
Denmark Luxembourg Spain France Netherlands Switzerland  

Anybody traveling to USA are asked to Register 3 days in advance to travel. The form can be completed online and is called “Electronic System for Travel Authorisation”, or ESTA. You can complete you application here: ESTA Application Page ESTA has been designed to allow for the accommodation of last minute and emergency travellers and you will no longer have to fill out a green Visa Waiver form on the Aircraft. The ESTA form requires your flight details - so if you are planning to travel to USA ensure you have booked your flight and have the flight details before you complete the ESTA form.

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