Once you’ve received a conviction, it can be easy to assume that the worst will happen and life as you know it will end. However, as Ben has found out, if you plan for everything and don’t give up hope then there is light at the end of the tunnel – just make sure you head towards it.
I have always been resourceful. Always had decent jobs, even holding down a fairly senior job. My world changed in 2016 when I was found guilty of a fraud offence.
I pleaded guilty and received a fine. Unfortunately my employer found out about it and decided that I posed too much of a risk to them from a publicity perspective and I agreed to resign.
Fortunately, I had already planned for this eventuality following my arrest some months earlier. I knew when my court date was and guessed that my employer would find out soon after and that they would want me to leave. That’s where my master rehabilitation plan swung into action!
To protect myself from the ‘google-effect’, I changed my name by deed poll and went through the arduous process of changing it across bank accounts, insurances, government agencies and family/friends.
I looked at the job market and started to consider a new career in my new name, therefore preventing the ‘DBS by Google’ impact. If they chose to Google me, they wouldn’t find anything negative that they could use against me.
As I agreed to resign, I also negotiated with my outgoing employer to have an agreed reference confirming that my reason for leaving was one of resignation and nothing that could be deemed more sinister. When the HR team requested the reference, I made them aware to do so in my old name, I explained it was my former professional name – it didn’t raise any questions and the reference came back as agreed.
So, from a work perspective I was sorted. New job to start following my court appearance, new name, new documents and looking forward to moving on with my life post-conviction. I just had to ride out the initial 12 months to cover the time it would take before it became ‘spent’, and a further 12 months to make it 2 years so that my employment was protected from unfair dismissal.
My next challenge was that I was planning a holiday to the USA – luckily it wasn’t for 2 years but I had read the horror stories and forums about anyone who had a fraud conviction (a crime involving moral turpitude) would not be eligible for a visa waiver and therefore have to go down the visa route which is not always successful – having spent over 10 holidays in the States over the last 15 years, I was thinking about the prospect of never being able to go back.
Using the US Consular website I completed my DS-160, applied for my police certificate from ACRO and printed off my VCU1 form – I made sure that all of the information matched across the various forms, I went back through my diary and passports to ensure I captured any visits to the US and the countries around the world – I wasn’t taking anything for granted and after all, I had nothing to hide.
I paid my $160 and managed to get an appointment for a Friday morning. Again, the forums paint a range of stories about long queues, consulate staff who can be obstructive, long waiting periods and bad news stories but my experience was quite the opposite.
I travelled to London the night before. I arrived at the Embassy wearing my best suit, shirt and tie, carrying a folder containing every document I could ever need to prove my ties to the UK and financial status. Going through a very smart and efficient security checkpoint and into the Embassy visa department, you get a ticket and wait for your number to flash up on the screen.
The screen flashed up my number and I headed round to one of the private booths away from the rest of the standard visa windows. The lady took my fingerprints, asked why I could not use the ESTA system, scanned my documents and then asked me to wait to be called and interviewed.
I waited for another 30-40 minutes when I was called to another room. I was greeted by an American lady who proceeded to question me about my employment status, how long my last visit to the US was for, when I was looking to go back again and then the details around my conviction – I explained everything honestly and with full detail. After what seemed to be ages, the lady looked up from her screen and said “I’ve approved you for a visa”. I’d got a full tourist visa for multiple entries and then the revelation came – it was for 10 years!
If it wasn’t for the glass security screen, I would have hugged her. She explained that I would be getting an email in the next couple of days with the details of where to pick up my passport.
The email came through a couple of days later and I drove to pick up my gleaming passport with the new 10 year visa stuck in it – I was elated.
My 2 year rehabilitation is now complete – new job, new name, new outlook, no negative online footprint and a new 10 year US tourist visa to boot. Regardless of what happens, try to be one step ahead and ensure you plan for every eventuality. In this process it usually will happen and with a clear plan in place, you should be able to deal with any pitfalls.
By Ben (name changed to protect identity)
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