Will being in debt affect my ESTA or Visa application?

Struggling with debt and having a poor credit score affects a lot of things in your life, so it’s reasonable to ask whether it will affect an ESTA or Visa application.

If you travel to countries like the United States or the United Kingdom, even if it’s just for a short tourist or business trip, you’ll need a Visa, or in the US, an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), which allows you to travel to the US for business or pleasure, without a Visa.

ESTA or visa travel for businessIf you’re in debt and being chased by debt collectors (like Moriarty Law), this has an obvious effect on your credit score and finances. In some situations, this can influence your chances of getting a long term Visa.

In this article, we’re going to cover whether being in debt can negatively affect an ESTA or Visa application to the US or the UK, so you can start planning those overseas trips.

Will being in debt affect my ESTA or Visa application?

Being in debt alone is unlikely to affect an ESTA application, as ESTA applications are usually rejected on the basis of criminal offences, however, debt may affect your application for a US Visa, as you have to prove you have the financial resources not to become a ‘public charge’ (dependent on government benefits).

Being in debt is unlikely to affect your application for a UK Visa, as long as you can prove via, for example, bank statements that you have sufficient resources to fund your stay in the UK, for however long it is going to be.

How debt affects ESTA and Visa applications in the US

In the US, the main factor that will affect your ability to get an ESTA or a Visa for the country is a criminal record. Obviously, being unable to pay off your debts is not a criminal offence, unless the debt is tied up in criminal activity such as fraud. It is very unlikely that the US would refuse a short-term travel Visa or ESTA if you have debts on your record.

However, getting a Visa to live in the US with debt could pose a few issues. One of the laws that former US President Donald Trump brought in was that immigrants hoping to settle in the US had to prove that they wouldn’t become a ‘public charge’, which means someone who is reliant on the state of food and medical care.

When getting a Visa to live in the US longer term (a green card), you’d therefore have to prove that you’re wealthy enough to provide for yourself and your family, and having a lot of debt to pay off and potentially being chased by debt collectors won’t necessarily give off this image. Luckily, the Biden administration has just rescinded this rule, so keep checking to see when the policies will officially change.

How debt affects Visa applications in the UK

Being in debt is unlikely to affect a Visa application to the UK, as long as you can show evidence that you have enough funds to support your stay.

While UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) does not provide exact guidelines for how many bank statements you not to submit, you should provide about 6 months worth of bank statements that show your regular monthly salary and your financial obligations.

If you’re applying for a Family Visa to settle for longer term in the UK, you and your partner must have a combined income of at least £18,600, and more if you have children who are not British or Irish citizens, do not have pre-settled status and are not permanently settled in the UK. If you’re in serious debt, and a large portion of your income goes on repaying these, you may not have the extra money you need to prove that you can provide for your family in the UK, which could affect your Visa application.

Can being in debt affect my citizenship?

While being in debt shouldn’t, for the most part, affect an Esta or Visa application in the US or UK – unless your debt means you don’t have the funds to stay or live in the country – when you’re applying for citizenship, debt does play a bigger role.

In the UK, UKVI conducts a thorough check before they decide whether or not to grant you citizenship. One of these checks is a ‘good character’ test, which will include checks on your financial history.

The government’s immigration policy states that: “the decision maker [for a citizenship application] will not normally refuse an application simply because the person is in debt, especially if loan repayments have been made as agreed or if acceptable efforts are being made to pay off accumulated debts”.

So, if you can prove you are making the effort to pay off your debts, you can show that you’re a responsible character, and this is less likely to affect your chances of citizenship. However, as the immigration policy goes on to say, “where a person deliberately and recklessly builds up debts and there is no evidence of a serious intention to pay them off, the decision maker will normally refuse the application”.

Applications for permanent residence (for example, through a green card) or citizenship in the US can be affected by debt. New Immigration rules mean that agents can look at your credit score and credit history when you apply for a green card, and could refuse it if you’re in serious debt.

Now that we’ve gone through whether being in debt will affect your Visa or ESTA application, we hope you’ve found this a useful read. Remember to do thorough research and have all your financial statements in order before making your application.