Not everyone who has a criminal record is ineligible to enter the United States. Many people only find out that they are ineligible when they are trying to cross the border and get denied.
- It’s better to know your eligibility in advance. Otherwise, there could be consequences:
- You could be detained.
- You could lose the value of your reservations, event tickets, etc.
- You could inconvenience your travel companions.
There are two major grounds on which a person with a criminal record can be turned away. One is drug offences. The other is crimes of moral turpitude. There are some other categories, such as terrorism, money laundering and prostitution, but these two are the most common.
Drug offences apply to all offences including small marijuana possession charges. Trafficking is taken very seriously. You may be expected to get a drug test to prove you are no longer using drugs.
What is a crime of moral turpitude?
Moral turpitude is a difficult concept to understand. It usually refers to the intent of the person committing the crime. For example, serious assault with the intent to harm a person could likely make you ineligible, whereas throwing a punch in a bar brawl may not.
Fraud-related charges are another common reason why people are denied entry. Charges could include forgery, embezzlement or mail fraud. Kidnapping, vandalism, sexual assault and theft and robbery can make you ineligible. Murder and manslaughter are considered serious, of course.
The most common charge in Canada, DUI, will not make you inadmissible unless there are additional circumstances or numerous convictions.
You do not need to be convicted of a crime to be turned away based on a record. The US border will also consider discharges, stayed or withdrawn charges and any information they can find out on their own through questioning or searches of your belongings. They have even been known to turn people away if they have ever had a mental health crisis that resulted in a police report.
As well, a pardon or Record Suspension will not help you enter the United States. They do not recognize Canadian pardons.
If you have ever been denied entry for a criminal record, you will need to apply for a US Entry Waiver. If the border agent made the decision in error, the Department of Homeland Security will issue a letter, but you need to apply for the waiver first.
Determining whether or not you are ineligible to enter the United States can be confusing. Contact us for a free consultation and we'll help you assess your situation. Our number is 1-866-972-7366.