Area of Law: Criminal Records | Pardons & USA Waivers
Answer # 2204
What crimes would not prevent someone from entering the USA?Region: Ontario Answer # 2204
There are offences that legally do not prevent someone from being allowed to enter the US. From a practical perspective, however, a person often will be refused entry into the USA if the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer sees that a criminal record file exists in the RCMP data banks, even if the offence is one that would not render the person inadmissible.
Offences that are not supposed to render a person inadmissible are:
- Purely political offences
- A conviction for a single youth crime where more than five years have passed. If, however, the person was between fifteen and eighteen years old, they may still be inadmissible if they were tried and convicted at that time as an adult for serious offences involving violence, or if there is a pattern of criminal misconduct as a youth.
- Crimes for which the maximum punishment is one year or less and the actual punishment imposed, if convicted, was six months or less. For example, this would apply to strictly summary offences in Canada where the maximum punishment is six months.
These exemptions do not apply to convictions for drug offences. The USA considers drug offences as a separate category that almost always renders a person inadmissible.
Keep in mind that when it comes to entering the USA, it is the individual’s burden to prove that the or she is admissible, for example, by showing police and court records, and the relevant Criminal Code section. In reality, the person’s chances of getting in are slim. Furthermore, those who carried such documents and were admitted in the past would still have to go through the same process every time they wanted to enter the USA. Showing documents about a criminal record at the border and having to explain the situation takes time, can be embarrassing, and quite frankly, is not a realistic or reliable approach.
The most reliable way to enter the USA with a Canadian criminal record is to first apply for a USA Entry Waiver.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, refer to our criminal law section.
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