US Entry Waiver

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US Entry Waiver Application Service

Unfortunately, getting into the United States with a criminal history is not as simple as showing up at the border with a valid Canadian passport. Canadians who have ever been convicted of a crime, regardless of how long ago the offence occurred, may be refused entry to the United States! In addition to being denied entry when attempting to travel to the USA, Canadians with a criminal record can also run into problems when transiting through US airports on their way to another country. Even if you have received a pardon from the Canadian government, you still risk being turned away or even detained at the US border because the United States does not recognize Canadian pardons.

People make mistakes in their life, especially when they're young, and sometimes these mistakes lead to a criminal conviction. If you're a resident of Canada and have made such a mistake in your past, you could very well be denied entry to the United States on your next trip even if the crime occurred 10+ years ago. Many older Canadians with a bygone criminal record have been traveling south of the border trouble free for decades, but all of sudden in the past few years have found themselves unexpectedly shut out of the USA. After 9/11 the US Department of Homeland Security began taking a number of different measures to increase security at the border. As of 2010, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) now has full access to the Canadian criminal databases including APIS and CPIC (maintained by the RCMP), and as a result Canadians with even a single criminal conviction dating as far back as the 1960s can find themselves inadmissible to the USA.

How to Obtain Permission to Enter US with a Criminal Record

If you're reading this, chances are you want to learn how to get into the United States with a criminal history as simply & easily as possible. The solution is to properly apply for and then successfully receive permission from the United States Department of Homeland Security. This permission comes in the form of a US Entry Waiver, which is a document that grants entry into the United States to a Canadian citizen who has a criminal conviction or other type of miscellaneous issue (such as an overstay during a previous trip) that would otherwise keep them from entering.

US Entry Waivers

A US Waiver of Inadmissibility can be issued for a time frame of one, two, or five years depending on a number of factors including the strength of the application, the seriousness and extent of the crimes that were committed, the amount of time since the convictions occurred, and whether or not it's a new Waiver or a Waiver renewal. A person can visit the United States multiple times during the duration of a single US Travel Waiver, but if they plan to stay for more than 3 months at once there may be additional forms that will need to be completed, notarized, and then attached to the application. While it's possible to apply for a US Entry Waiver yourself by completing Form I-192 which allows inadmissible non-immigrant aliens to request permission for temporary admittance to the United States, it's important to realize that it's a highly complex legal process that can easily overwhelm someone without professional assistance. The US Waiver application requires a significant amount of tedious paperwork including proof of citizenship, fingerprints, biographic information (form G-325A), police records, court documents, character references, rehabilitation docs, and even form I-212 if the individual has already been removed from or denied entry to the country. The Department of Homeland Security standards are extremely high, and forgetting to include even a single document can result in the entire application being rejected. For this reason, many Canadians choose the stress-free option of using a qualified US Immigration Lawyer to assist them.

Our US immigration lawyer has extensive experience helping Canadians overcome criminal inadmissibility issues so they can successfully travel to the USA with a criminal record! Let our team take care of the hard work for you, we're excellent at this! Contact us today for a free consultation!

Do I Actually Need a US Waiver?

The only way an individual that is inadmissible to the United States can legally enter the country is with a valid US Entry Waiver. If an ineligible person attempts to enter into the United States without a Travel Waiver they risk being detained, deported, and can even have their car confiscated. If the non-eligible person is flying into the US, they will not be allowed to board their flight and risk losing all the money they spent on airfare, hotels, and other travel related expenses. Even if an individual already has a nonimmigrant visa such as the popular H-1B visa that allows American companies to employ Canadians in specialty occupations, a US Waiver is still needed to overcome criminal inadmissibility (including for alien re-entry). There are many reasons that a person may be found inadmissible to enter the US from Canada, ranging from criminal inadmissibility, to immigration violations, to health reasons. There are also several different types of US Waivers available to help inadmissible people gain entry to the USA legally depending on their particular situation.

Exactly Which Crimes Make a Canadian Inadmissible to USA?

Other than a few exceptions, if you are a resident of Canada and have a criminal record (even if you have been pardoned) you will need a USA Waiver to visit the United States of America, otherwise you will be denied entry at the US border. Crimes that may cause a person to be inadmissible to the U.S.A. include crimes that involve moral turpitude (CIMT), all controlled substance violations (even a single offense of simple possession of Marijuana or any type of drug paraphernalia), two or more summary convictions (this does not include dangerous driving, DUI, or general assault), commercialized vice and prostitution, or serious criminal activities where immunity from prosecution is received. There is a lot of false information on the Internet claiming that as long as there was no "intent to distribute" involved, simple possession of illegal drugs such as marijuana, ecstasy (mdma), cocaine, crack, psychedelic mushrooms, or opium will not result in the individual becoming inadmissible to the US since the immigration administrative proceeding does not use a controlled substance violation as a crime involving moral turpitude. This is incorrect however, since a controlled substance violation is a CIMT under section 212(a)(2)(i)(II) of the Immigration and National Act (INA) causing the person to be non-eligible for entry to the United States of America.

Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

Crimes that involve moral turpitude are those crimes where conduct is vile, depraved, and contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties to society in general. Exactly which criminal offenses are considered to involve moral turpitude is constantly changing due to its loose definition. Moral Turpitude is a legal concept in the United States that began appearing in US immigration law in the early 1800s and refers to conduct that is considered discordant to community ideals of honesty, justice, and strong morals. If a resident of Canada is convicted for a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT), they will immediately become inadmissible to the USA according to section 212(a)(2)(a)(i) of the INA.

List of Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

  • Abandonment of a minor child (willful and resulting in the destitution of the child)
  • Arson
  • Assault with intent to kill, commit rape, commit robbery or commit serious bodily harm
  • Assault with a dangerous or deadly weapon
  • Blackmail
  • Bigamy
  • Bribery
  • Burglary
  • Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
  • Counterfeiting
  • Embezzlement
  • Extortion
  • False pretenses
  • Forgery
  • Fraud
  • Gross indecency
  • Harboring a fugitive from justice (with guilty knowledge)
  • Incest (if the result of an improper sexual relationship)
  • Kidnapping
  • Larceny (grand or petty)
  • Lewdness
  • Mail fraud
  • Malicious destruction of property
  • Manslaughter - Involuntary (where the statute requires proof of recklessness)
  • Manslaughter - Voluntary
  • Mayhem
  • Murder
  • Knowingly receiving stolen goods
  • Pandering
  • Perjury
  • Prostitution
  • Rape (including "statutory rape" by virtue of the victim's age)
  • Robbery
  • Tax evasion (willful)
  • Theft (with intention)
  • Transporting stolen property (with guilty knowledge)
  • Aiding and abetting, being an accessory, or conspiring to commit any of the above

List of Crimes NOT Involving Moral Turpitude

  • Black market violations
  • Breach of the peace
  • Breaking and entering (requiring no implicit intent to commit a crime involving moral turpitude)
  • Carrying a concealed weapon
  • Damaging private property (where intent to damage not required)
  • Desertion from the Armed Forces
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Driving while license suspended or revoked
  • Drunk driving (DUI) or reckless driving
  • Drunkenness
  • Escape from prison
  • False statements (not amounting to perjury or involving fraud)
  • Firearm violations
  • Gambling violations
  • Immigration violations
  • Joy riding (where the intention to take permanently not required)
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Liquor violations
  • Loan sharking
  • Lottery violations
  • Minor traffic violations
  • Passing bad checks (where intent to defraud not required)
  • Possessing burglar tools (without intent to commit burglary)
  • Possessing stolen property (if guilty knowledge is not essential)
  • Smuggling and customs violations (where intent to commit fraud is absent)
  • Tax evasion (without intent to defraud)
  • Trespassing
  • Vagrancy

Petty Offense Exceptions

According to section 212(a)(2)(A)(ii)(II) of the INA, even if an individual has committed a crime of moral turpitude, they may still be eligible for entry into US without a Waiver if the crime qualifies as a “petty offense”. A CIMT is considered a petty offense if the maximum penalty for committing it is one year or less, and the person was sentenced to no more than six months imprisonment (the exact amount of time they actually ended up spending in jail doesn't matter). Regardless of whether or not the crime was a summary offense or an indictable offense, an experienced US Immigration Attorney could potentially show that the petty offense exception applies using a certified disposition from the court and a copy of the statute under which the person was convicted. If the crime you were convicted of does not meet the requirements of a petty offense, you will need a US Travel Waiver to enter American soil and must fill out USCIS Form I-192 with or without the help of a qualified USA immigration lawyer.

I Have a Canadian Pardon, Do I Still Need a US Entry Waiver?

Yes! Many Canadians incorrectly believe that as long as they have received a record suspension (formerly called a pardon), their criminal record is entirely erased and they can travel to the United States of America without problems. After all, once a pardon is granted by the National Parole Board it's only with written permission from the Minister of Justice that the sealed criminal record can be viewed (which only happens in extremely rare circumstances). The fact is though, as of 2010 our neighbors to the south have access to every Canadians criminal record, and since the United States does not recognize Canadian pardons they keep the conviction on file even when an individual is pardoned. A lot of the inaccurate information around this topic is unfortunately being disseminated by non-licensed individuals that offer USA Entry Waiver services. If you Google "can you cross the border with a criminal record pardon" you will find several websites suggesting that you can without the need of a US waiver, which is just not accurate in many cases. Some of this false information states "if you have never been denied entry into the United States for having a criminal record, a Canadian pardon will suffice" and "once a pardon is issued, a person's criminal record will not be revealed to US authorities at the border". It is important that a licensed U.S. immigration lawyer is able to analyze the issues with your particular case; be very careful because there are non legal professionals offering to do US Waiver applications for Canadians.

Canadian Pardons Do Not Help with Entry into USA

American border officials use the United States National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, which is maintained by CJIS and the FBI and interlinked with federal, tribal, state, and local agencies, as well as with the RCMP and their CPIC database. When you hire a Canadian Pardon Services company and successfully receive a pardon from the Canadian government, your criminal conviction is permanently removed from the federal CPIC database but it remains in the American NCIC database. This allows US Customs and Border Protection agents to see any criminal conviction a Canadian has ever had regardless of whether or not the person has obtained a record suspension. A Canadian record suspension (formerly pardon) might withhold your criminal history from a potential employer or landlord (any criminal background checks conducted will come back as ‘no criminal record found'), but the US customs officers will still be well aware of your past convictions. Many of the companies making these incorrect claims advertise themselves as "a lower cost alternative to other providers of US Entry Waivers" but clearly you get what you pay for.

Even some law firm websites contain incorrect information on this subject, so if you're going to pay for professional help it's highly advised that you select an experienced US immigration attorney in Canada that concentrates on US Entry Waivers. Contact us for a free consultation!

Other Reasons for Inadmissibility

Health Reasons

There are several communicable diseases that are of a public health significance and a person who has one of these diseases may not be allowed to enter the United States. The current list of diseases include Gonorrhea, Leprosy, Syphilis, Venereum, Lymphogranuloma, Inguinale, Granuloma, Chancroid, Class A Tuberculosis, as well as select physical disorders, mental disorders, and other communicable disease as determined by the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. An individual who refuses the required vaccinations to enter the country may be refused entry as well. A person that is diagnosed with one of the above illnesses can apply for a Waiver for US entry using form I-601, although there are several additional application requirements that will need to be met depending on the disease.

Security

Any person that has any type of security or other related violation will need to have a valid Travel Waiver to enter the United States. This includes people who have been accused of or convicted of being a saboteur, terrorist, or a spy. Persons who are voluntary members of the communist party or any other type of totalitarian party, including Nazis, and any person who would be an endangerment to the U.S. foreign policy will also need special permission to enter the USA (which requires they prove that they are not a threat to the general public of the country).

Immigration Violators and Illegal Entrants

There are some special circumstances where immigration violators and illegal entrants may apply for a U.S. Waiver. A person who has entered the United States without being paroled or admitted at a valid Port of Entry (POE) or a person who overstays their time in the country will accrue an unlawful presence. The time frame for the ban will depend on how long the person was in the country illegally. A person who is found to be inadmissible because they have been unlawfully present in the country for over 180 days will receive a 3 year ban and those that enter and stay for more than a year will receive a 10 year ban. If the person has left the United States voluntarily, they can apply for a Waiver for entering US on grounds of overstay inadmissibility using form I-601. If the person has knowingly or willfully committed fraud or made misrepresentations to obtain some type of immigration benefit, he or she can also apply for a USA Entry Waiver using form I-601. A person that has been deported or been given expedited removal will also need to file another form, I-212, which is an application to reapply for admission provided they are seeking non-immigrant entry. Any person that has been in the U.S.A. unlawfully for more than a year and has exited the country and then re-entered without being inspected will also need to file the form for a United States Waiver in order to have their unlawful presence waived.

Claiming US Citizenship Falsely

Any alien who has falsely claimed that they are a citizen of the United States of America after the 30th of September, 1996, will not be eligible for any type of US Waiver. The Immigration and Nationality Act, which is a federal law permanently bans these individuals from entering the United States. Any person who has ever falsely claimed to be a citizen of the United States will be banned from the country for life and there is no Travel Waiver for US entry that will be issued that would allow them to enter the country again, except possibly in extreme circumstances (but this is exceptionally rare).

Military Service

Anyone who left the United States in order to avoid conscription or a person who unlawfully left the United States armed forces and has not regularized his or her status in the U.S.A. may have an outstanding warrant for their arrest or may be ineligible to enter the United States. Anyone unsure about this can contact the nearest CBP or DHS office and inquire about their status. Even those individuals who were not in the military, but left the United States on uncertain terms may find that there is a warrant for their arrest in the United States. If this is the case, and you attempt to enter the country you will be arrested upon your arrival. Typically, you will be sent to the state where your warrant is. Check with a local DHS or CBP office to determine whether or not there is a US warrant for your arrest.

Miscellaneous Grounds for Inadmissibility

Aside from the reasons listed above, there are several other miscellaneous reasons that a person may be found to be inadmissible to the United States. Some of these reasons include, but are not limited to: being a practicing polygamist, a guardian that is accompanying a helpless alien, international child abductors, relatives who support abductors, and former citizens of the United States who have been found by the Attorney General to have renounced their citizenship as a way to avoid paying taxes owed to the IRS. US Waivers may be granted for several humanitarian purposes including to make sure that a family is able to stay together or in cases of extreme hardship. This applies when the applicant is the spouse, parent, daughter, son, brother, sister, or fiance of a citizen of the United States, or is the son, daughter, or spouse of a lawful permanent resident of the USA.

US Entry Requirements for Canadians

If you are a Canadian citizen a visa is not required when traveling to the U.S. for the purpose of visiting or studying. You will, however, need a valid Canadian passport to travel from Canada to the United States even by land (this requirement started in 2007). If you are an investor, an intending immigrant planning on staying in the country, or are engaged to an American, a visa is required before entering. If you're a NAFTA professional, a temporary worker, or a journalist who will work in the USA you must show the CBP officer at the Port of Entry all the necessary supporting documentation and approved petitions in order to be allowed in. Canadians visiting the U.S. are generally granted a stay of 6 months at the time of entry, and any requests to extend this time frame must be made before expiry (at which point the individual has officially overstayed their visit and is in violation of US immigration law which will likely lead to a harsh punishment). US law also requires that all foreigners qualify for their desired stay and purpose when they first enter the country, meaning that any person from Canada that intends to work, study, or live in the United States without fully disclosing this info during their initial entry risks being unlawfully present.

Entering US from Canada as a Non-Canadian

For individuals who are not Canadian citizens, traveling to the United States from Canada is no different than traveling to the US from their own country. If the person is a citizen of one of the 38 countries eligible for entry into the USA visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), then they can cross the border the same as a Canadian provided they have a valid passport and are not inadmissible due to a criminal record, overstaying on a past trip, or miscellaneous other reason. If the person is not visa exempt via the Visa Waiver Program, then the entry requirement of a valid US Visa will still exist even though they are physically traveling from Canada not their home country. Non-Canadians who are inadmissible to US for criminal or health reasons must also complete the US Waiver application form since they will require permission to enter USA with a criminal record just like citizens of Canada. Native Americans who were born in Canada and are Members of Canada's First Nations can travel freely across the US/Canada border under the terms of the Jay Treaty provided they do not have a criminal history. First Nations in Canada require a US Waiver for criminal entry into the United States.

Traveling to US After Conditional or Absolute Discharge

In some cases a person may admit to being guilty of a crime, but instead of convicting them the court will decide to discharge the accused either absolutely or with conditions described in a probation order. While a discharge is not a conviction, it is still considered evidence of guilt and could mean that a person is inadmissible to the United States. For this reason the same rules apply to a discharge as to a conviction, meaning a conditional discharge or absolute discharge for a given crime will be treated by US border agents in a similar manner to a conviction for that crime. Absolute discharges stay on a person’s record for a year while conditional discharges stay on a person’s record for 3 years. It is a good idea to obtain a criminal record check after the 1 or 3 year time period is completed to make sure that it has been 100% removed. When it comes to a discharge, there are several things that can occur to cause it to not fully come off your record. The courts may have recorded the discharge as a conviction meaning it won't automatically be purged after it expires, or the discharge could be removed from the RCMP database successfully but an FPS number still associated with your name might not have been properly purged as well which could still lead to a positive hit at the Canada-US border. If you plan on entering USA with a criminal discharge, it's advised that you have a lawyer prepare a Legal Opinion Letter explaning your exact situation to US immigration authorities.

How Does a US Immigration Lawyer Help?

There are several reasons why many Canadians choose to retain the services of a US immigration attorney to help them apply for a US Entry Waiver. The first and most obvious is that USA immigration lawyers help ensure the completeness and correctness of the US Entry Waiver application form. A US Temporary Waiver of Inadmissibility is a complex legal application and it's very easy to make a mistake, but an experienced lawyer will ensure that the application is complete, accurate, and does not contain any errors. Another major advantage of hiring a law firm to assist you is that they will know exactly which additional documentation you can provide to bolster your application. A United States immigration lawyer can not only improve your chances of being approved by crafting an impressive narrative on why you need to travel to the US, he or she can also strengthen your application by suggesting specific types of supporting documentation that would best demonstrate that you've been fully rehabilitated. If you have a criminal record, why risk being refused entry to USA when a Canadian based U.S. immigration lawyer can maximize your chances of successful entry by helping you properly prepare a US Waiver application?

US immigration attorneys can also help you prepare for your interview, and can coach their clients on how to best explain their situation to border officials. Applying for US Waivers can involve a staggering amount of paperwork, but retaining the services of a reputable US Immigration Attorney in Canada can often reduce the amount of stress involved with dealing with such a complicated procedure. One of the most difficult tasks people who attempt to apply on their own face is actually paying the US government the $585 waiver application filing fee. The US Department of Homeland Security only accepts cheques and money orders drawn from American financial institutions, which is a major problem for the vast majority of Canadians who do not have an account with a US bank. When you hire a lawyer, however, you simply pay this government fee directly to them (in trust) using credit card or whatever payment method you desire and they handle ensuring the government gets paid properly.

Our United States immigration attorney accepts clients from the following provinces: British Columbia (BC), Alberta (AB), Saskatchewan (SK), Manitoba (MB), Ontario (ON), Quebec (QC), New Brunswick (NB), Nova Scotia (NS), Prince Edward Island (PE), and Newfoundland (NL). We also accept clients from Yukon (YK), Northwest Territories (NT), and Nunavut (NU), and will accept international clients on a case by case basis.

US Waiver Application Services

If you are considering doing business with a website that offers US Waiver services, it's suggested that you verify whether or not the legal work will be done by a licensed lawyer. If the company makes claims such as "we are the best in the industry", "we guarantee success", or "for an extra fee we will get the government to process your US Travel Waiver application faster" it's highly unlikely that the website is being run by a law firm since these types of statements are against the bar society rules. A United States immigration lawyer in Canada is qualified to give legal advice to Canadians who have been denied entry to USA and can help clients gain smooth entry to the United States of America. US Waiver entry is easy once the document has been issued, but gathering all the required paperwork needed to apply for one can be a difficult task especially after a person has received a Canadian criminal record pardon. Once a record suspension has been granted, it can be burdensome to assemble all the compulsory documentation for the application, so assistance from an experienced US immigration lawyer can greatly help.

If you are sitting there reading this asking yourself 'can I travel to the US with a criminal record?' we encourage you to pick up the phone and call us right now to get real answers to your questions. We offer free 1 on 1 consultations, and aim to help make visiting USA with a criminal history as easy as possible for Canadians!

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