Area of Law: Criminal Records | Pardons & USA Waivers
Answer # 2201
Can someone with a Canadian criminal record legally enter the USA?Region: Ontario Answer # 2201
According to American immigration laws, a person can be denied entry into the USA for many reasons, including:
- being convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT)
- being convicted of a drug-related offence
- being convicted of two or more offences for which the total jail sentence was at least five years
- if a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Officer knows or has reason to believe that the individual has ever been engaged in (among other things) drug-trafficking, human-trafficking, money-laundering, espionage, terrorism, torture, smuggling other people into the USA
Under any of these circumstances, it is illegal to enter the USA with a criminal record, unless a person is an American citizen, has Native American status (defined under article III of the Jay Treaty as 50% Aboriginal blood), or has received advanced permission from American Immigration, such as a USA Entry Waiver.
The key thing to remember is that the CBP Officer has the authority to refuse someone entry for any reason that the Officer feels might be a threat to the USA. It is not necessary that the person have a conviction to be turned away at the border. In fact, no criminal record needs to exist to be denied entry. Determination as to who will be admitted are made at the discretion of the CBP Officers on a case-by-case basis in light of all the relevant and available facts. Their job is to keep the USA safe and to screen out all the undesirable people. That’s why they usually will not let anyone with a criminal record in. Instead, they will tell the person to make a formal application for a Waiver. This way, they are sure the application for entry will be thoroughly reviewed by their Admissibility Review Office.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, refer to our criminal law section.
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