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Thread: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

  1. #1

    Default Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    I've been lurking the forums for a couple weeks, and have been itching to post since I recently completed and turned in my application.

    I've read a few different threads concerning the FBI background check, as well as JET's general approach towards applicants with a criminal record. Unfortunately it would seem no one on the boards has had a situation exactly like mine, so I thought I would ask: exactly how much does JET care about previous criminal charges?

    About 4 years ago, when I was 19, I was charged with a minor DUI and possession of paraphernalia. The paraphernalia charge was dropped almost immediately, and I never heard anything about it again. As for the DUI, I plead no contest and was able to get it stricken from any and all official records within a year or so of the event (I called the county clerk's office as well as city records while filling out my application; neither was able to find anything on me). However, since the application was pretty adamant on the disclosure of any criminal history regardless of whether or not it was expunged, I mentioned the incident on my application.

    I know these charges pretty much guarantee rejection from the program, but I have very strong letters of recommendation in addition to a more than solid SoP. I studied abroad at a Japanese university last year, have taught English in Japan while still in high school, and participated in a high school exchange program in rural Japan; by all counts, I am a qualified applicant. But with this one blight on my record, I am afraid I may not even be given an interview. Does anyone on the forums know if this is grounds for immediate disqualification?

  2. #2
    Comrade therealwindycity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    I know of a JET who was accepted with a minor in possession of alcohol charge that he mentioned in his application (and which, incidentally, didn't show up on his background check), but DUI and paraphernalia ...

    I think you have the right attitude - expect that you'll be disqualified and be happily surprised if you're not. Furthermore, if you do get accepted, prepare for your BOE to be extra-strict. My friend was flat-out told that a lot of people at the BOE didn't want to hire him.

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    Gizmoduck - blatherskite Gizmotech's Avatar
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    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    Actually it's worse than you think. They won't find out until you give them the FBI report (if they are on it), and by then you'll be past the interview stage. Yes, having a discrepancy between your application and FBI report will be a problem, only if you left something out that is on the FBI report. If you put extra stuff in the app that isn't in the report, then it's up to the application processor whether you are a risk or not.
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    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gizmotech View Post
    If you put extra stuff in the app that isn't in the report, then it's up to the application processor whether you are a risk or not.
    This is my main worry. If they look at this one bad thing and decide that it outweighs everything positive on my application, I won't even reach the interview stage. And with the sheer volume of applicants each year, it seems too easy from their perspective to just toss my application out when they can easily replace it with another. Hopefully, someone more forgiving will be looking over my materials.

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    Senior Moment Antonath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    DUI is serious in Japan (if you're officially "caught", anyway), so if you do get an interview, expect to be asked about it. Say how you've learned from the experience, etc. It's not an automatic disqualification but it will be a black mark, and like windy said, if you do make it out, expect to be watched.

    I'm guessing paraphernalia is a drug-related charge? (I'm a Brit, we use other terms.) If it is, and it shows up on your record or you listed it on the app, it would be an almost certain disqualification. Drugs charges are Serious Business in Japan.
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  6. #6

    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by Antonath View Post
    DUI is serious in Japan (if you're officially "caught", anyway), so if you do get an interview, expect to be asked about it. Say how you've learned from the experience, etc. It's not an automatic disqualification but it will be a black mark, and like windy said, if you do make it out, expect to be watched.

    I'm guessing paraphernalia is a drug-related charge? (I'm a Brit, we use other terms.) If it is, and it shows up on your record or you listed it on the app, it would be an almost certain disqualification. Drugs charges are Serious Business in Japan.
    Paraphernalia is indeed a drug-related offense, but one that shouldn't show up on my official record since it was dropped. Still, really kicking myself for that one right about now. If I'm lucky enough to get an interview, I shouldn't have a hard time explaining how I've learned from these mistakes. It was really a big wake-up call for me back then.

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    Comrade therealwindycity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    Even in the worst-case scenario, it will still be possible for you to come to Japan with a non-JET company since the paraphernalia charges were dropped. They're particularly strict since we're government employees, but there are increasingly numerous opportunities to come to Japan that might end up working out better than JET (not to sound like a pessimist; there's just been a lot of discussion recently about how JET isn't necessarily the be-all and end-all for getting to Japan)

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    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by TSterling View Post
    About 4 years ago, when I was 19, I was charged with a minor DUI and possession of paraphernalia. The paraphernalia charge was dropped almost immediately, and I never heard anything about it again. As for the DUI, I plead no contest and was able to get it stricken from any and all official records within a year or so of the event (I called the county clerk's office as well as city records while filling out my application; neither was able to find anything on me). However, since the application was pretty adamant on the disclosure of any criminal history regardless of whether or not it was expunged, I mentioned the incident on my application.
    One thing you should understand-- your record has been expunged. As far as the general public is concerned, you have no criminal record. That means average joes like yourself or your employer calling the county clerk's office will not be able to find any dirt on you.

    BUT--

    You still do, in fact, have a criminal record. Government agencies like the military and (presumably) the FBI can in fact see what you were charged with and what the outcome was (expungement), so you probably did yourself a favor in the long run just confessing to it and not being auto-DQed later for omitting it. At least now you'll know up front whether they'll consider you.

    BTW since you copped to having a rap sheet on the application I'm pretty sure you need to submit the FBI background check no later than January 15th-- you don't get to wait until after the interview. I could be wrong, as the application guidelines are the most ambiguously-worded, biggest clusterfuck I've ever seen. But you might want to double check that.
    Last edited by octagon; November 28th, 2013 at 16:18.

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    Feckless Manchild Otaku word's Avatar
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    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    As is occasionally pointed out, it can be advantageous to order an extra copy of your FBI record in advance. You never know--you just might be clean.
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    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by octagon View Post
    One thing you should understand-- your record has been expunged. As far as the general public is concerned, you have no criminal record. That means average joes like yourself or your employer calling the county clerk's office will not be able to find any dirt on you.

    BUT--

    You still do, in fact, have a criminal record. Government agencies like the military and (presumably) the FBI can in fact see what you were charged with and what the outcome was (expungement), so you probably did yourself a favor in the long run just confessing to it and not being auto-DQed later for omitting it. At least now you'll know up front whether they'll consider you.

    BTW since you copped to having a rap sheet on the application I'm pretty sure you need to submit the FBI background check no later than January 15th-- you don't get to wait until after the interview. I could be wrong, as the application guidelines are the most ambiguously-worded, biggest clusterfuck I've ever seen. But you might want to double check that.
    Hi, TSterling! I'm not a candidate in the JET program, but am only lurking around as my closest friend is in the application process. My advice doesn't come from JET experience, but from being a hiring manager who has seen many a background check. It's never more unsavory than when someone covers a negative record up, only to have me discover it later. At that point, it's over for them. I just wanted say that you did the right thing letting them know. Octagon is correct in that you *do* have a criminal record. Expungements will still show up on in-depth background checks. You did the honorable thing in coming clean on your application. It shows that you recognize your mistakes, and have the maturity to handle the situation rather than hiding it and having them find out about it after the fact. That would be a disaster.

    That being said, you should try your hardest to get your FBI record in to the embassy as quickly as possible. It will show that you were never convicted of a crime, and have lived as a law-abiding citizen the past few years. Having a clean record in conjunction with your excellent credentials should keep you a candidate in the running. The program does allow those who have criminal records, even with convictions.

    If you have the skills, education and experience I would not be surprised if you still get an interview. Obviously, in the interview your record will be addressed. You will need to be able to direct the interviewer to the FBI background check you submitted by the Jan. 15th deadline. It will give you a strong advantage when you explain that it was a learning experience from which you grew into a stronger, more dedicated man.

    Good luck!
    Last edited by enderwhite; November 28th, 2013 at 23:37.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    Thank you to everyone who responded. Glad to hear I'm not completely screwed just yet, so it seems I'll be anxiously awaiting the day interviews are announced like the rest of the applicants.

    And to those who asked about the background check, I sent mine in about 2 weeks ago through express mail (same as my application), so I will be calling them pretty soon to see if there's any way they can expedite my background check. The sooner I can get it to JET, the better off my chances will be.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    So I know this thread is pretty much dead, but I'm resuscitating it to ask one more question.

    Background check came in, and it did indeed show both of my offenses as well as the fact that they had been expunged. So it's certainly a good thing I went ahead and told them about it in the application.

    That said, it still causes me to worry. I asked my friend's dad in Japan if he thought it would make it especially difficult for me to get a work visa, to which he told me that he thinks the background check is more for the FBI to show me, the American government, and the Japanese government that they're doing their job. Whether this is the case, or my friend's dad (who is Japanese) is just politely trying to assuage my worries, I am not entirely sure. But I am considering calling the embassy and asking whether or not it makes a difference that I was granted a student visa when I studied abroad in Japan last year, something that occurred about 2.5 years after my run-in with the law.

    If they really judge these things on a case by case basis, then wouldn't the fact that I have been in Japan as a student since then impact their decision? After all, if they thought I would be a risk, wouldn't the fact that I had been there for a semester without incident be enough to dissuade them from thinking that? Not looking for a definite answer, just wondering if it would be worth calling and talking to someone in the embassy about.
    Last edited by TSterling; January 11th, 2014 at 06:36.

  13. #13
    Senior Member dstin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    How does it show that the offenses have been expunged? (which would by definition mean they weren't expunged)
    Or were just the conviction expunged but not the arrest?
    Last edited by dstin; January 12th, 2014 at 12:57.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    There wasn't a conviction for either charge, it said both of them were dropped but that's it. Apparently for the "complete expungement", I would have to get a lawyer all over again and pay a sh^tload of money. Which I am starting to think would be worth it.

    What were your charges for?

  15. #15

    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    I don't know for sure, so this is just my assumption of the issue - if JET knows your criminal charges, and they offer you a position, they know that the work visa will go through. In most cases (99.9% of the time) if you are offered a position after the interview then you will get a position in Japan. I think if your criminal charges were enough to disqualify you for a visa, then your application wouldn't be accepted in the first place.

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    Senior Member dstin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    Ahhh, sounds like some legal bullshit specific to your state.

    I got into a fight in highschool. Stupid teenager shit, honestly. 5 years later with not even a speeding ticket to my name since, I decided to get it cleared.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shincantsen View Post
    I don't know for sure, so this is just my assumption of the issue - if JET knows your criminal charges, and they offer you a position, they know that the work visa will go through. In most cases (99.9% of the time) if you are offered a position after the interview then you will get a position in Japan. I think if your criminal charges were enough to disqualify you for a visa, then your application wouldn't be accepted in the first place.

    This was kind of my thought process as well - if there's no chance of an applicant getting in with drug charges, then why would they say that applications containing them only "may" be disqualified, rather than outright binned on sight? I think it would be a bit cruel to allow people to have those kinds of hopes, only to dash them later. But I can understand if it were someone who had drug convictions, which are certainly much, much worse, and far more permanent. In my case, the charges were dropped after I did what I was supposed to do...a lengthy and expensive process, I might add.

    That said, I have done quite a bit of research on obtaining a work visa in Japan with past charges, and it seems nearly impossible for those who have convictions, but the picture is quite a big foggier for those who have had said charges removed. I know it's a lot easier for people to slip through the cracks with other companies though (AEON, NOVA, Interac and the like) since they don't require a background check from a source as thorough as the FBI is.

    Ah, that's unfortunate dstin. Glad you got it cleared though, I know firsthand how much of a pain it can be having to explain your past mistakes to potential employers...no fun at all.
    Last edited by TSterling; January 23rd, 2014 at 09:14.

  18. #18
    Comrade therealwindycity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    Whichever the case, I hope you let us know how it works out! I want to believe that the government wouldn't punish somebody for something so small, but I don't really much trust their judgment of what makes someone a good person. And if it's an automatic DQ as you said might be the case it would be good for potential applicants on here to have that information

  19. #19

    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by therealwindycity View Post
    Whichever the case, I hope you let us know how it works out! I want to believe that the government wouldn't punish somebody for something so small, but I don't really much trust their judgment of what makes someone a good person. And if it's an automatic DQ as you said might be the case it would be good for potential applicants on here to have that information

    I'll be sure to post the results on here, one way or the other. Got a callback from Interac the other day, who wants to interview me. I'd be lying if I said I were super excited about it, but at least it's a solid plan B.

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    keepin' it real ihatefall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Criminal History: How big of a problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by TSterling View Post
    I'll be sure to post the results on here, one way or the other. Got a callback from Interac the other day, who wants to interview me. I'd be lying if I said I were super excited about it, but at least it's a solid plan B.
    I'd say go for both. A great Interac position is better than a shitty JET position. (Case by case things might be different but usually JET is better. But I knew many ALTs on Interac that had a great experience.)

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