US Entry Waiver

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Denied Entry to USA from Canada

If you are inadmissible to the United States for any reason and you show up at the US border without a remedy to overcome this inadmissibility, such as valid United States Entry Waiver, you may be denied admission. There are several possible reasons for a Canadian to be denied entry to the United States of America:

  • Criminal Inadmissibility - If you have ever been convicted of a crime in Canada or abroad, even if it was 20+ years ago, you risk being denied entry to USA. This is one of the most common reasons for Canadian travellers to be given a notice of refusal at the border (and sometimes even detained).
  • Cannabis Use or Association - Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug under United States federal law. Even though many US States have legalised cannabis, it is still federally illegal and the border is under federal jurisdiction. Consequently, admitting to the use of pot at the border (even if you do not have any in your possession) can render you inadmissible to USA regardless of the fact that it is now legal in Canada. Association with the cannabis industry, such as owning, working for, or even investing in a legal marijuana business, can also cause you to be denied entry at the US border especially if your reason for travel is cannabis related in any way.
  • Lack of Valid Passport - If you forgot your passport at home, you will not be allowed to cross the border into USA. As of 2008, all Canadians need a valid passport in order to travel to the United States, even if they are driving not flying. If your passport has expired or will expire before your expected date of departure from the United States, you will also be forbidden from entering the country.
  • Previous Immigration Violation - If you have violated US immigration law during a prior visit, such as overstaying or illegally working in the country, you risk being stopped at the border and turned away. Immigration violations are taken exceedingly seriously by American officials, so if a person is ever caught entering or residing in the country under false pretenses the consequences can be severe.
  • Lack of Funds - If asked to do so by immigration officials, visitors to the United States must be able to prove they have sufficient funds for their stay. This can be done by bringing a bank statement along with you, or by logging into your online banking account on your mobile phone. The longer your planned stay in the US, the more money you should have in order to show you can support yourself for the entire duration of your visit.
  • Admitted Drug Use - Even if you do not have a criminal record, admitting to illegal drug use either publicly or to US CBP staff is reason enough to be shunned at the border. This allegedly happened to former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford who was reported to have been denied US entry at Chicago O'Hare airport shortly after admitting on television to smoking crack cocaine.
  • Immigration Fraud - If you attempt to cross the American border or qualify for a US immigration program via fraudulent means, not only do you risk being denied entry to the US but you can also be banned from the country for several years. Examples of immigration fraud include crossing the border under a false identity such as friend or sibling's passport, or forging documents in order to receive a US Waiver.
  • Warrant - Anyone with a warrant out for their arrest, even a provincial bench warrant from another province, is deemed inadmissible to the United States and may be refused at the border. After the denial of entry, the American border will often contact the RCMP and let them know the whereabouts of the wanted person. If the warrant is stateside, instead of receiving a refusal of entry the individual will likely be arrested on the spot.
  • Planning to Work Without Permit - If border agents have any reason to believe that you plan to work while in the country even though you do not possess a valid work permit, you will be refused entry at the border. Lack of documentation can make US immigration agents suspicious of a traveller's true intentions; if a person does not have evidence of Canadian employment, officials at the border may be worried that he or she is entering the country with the intention of working illegally.
  • No Intention to Leave - If US immigration staff pick up on any indications that you are planning to stay in the country indefinitely, you may also face entry denial. For this reason, it is sometimes necessary to show proof of ties to Canada supporting the narrative that you wish to enter the United States as a genuine visitor for only a temporary duration.

Worried you may be denied entry to USA? Previously refused at the US border and want to know if you can try again? Phone us today for a free consultation.

Denied Entry to United States

If you have already been refused entry to USA, it is extremely important that you abide by the instructions and do not attempt to return until you are legally allowed to do so. At this point, it is pointless to argue with US Customs and Border Protection about their decision to refuse you entry, and you should instead focus on how you can get pre-approved for re-entry by contacting a US immigration attorney. If you attempt to re-enter the US at another Port of Entry after previously being turned away, not only will you be denied entrance once again but you also risk being banned from the country for an extensive amount of time. Once you are officially denied entry at the border, you should really consider consulting with a U.S. immigration lawyer before trying to cross the border again. Even if you were refused admittance during the COVID-19 pandemic because you were not considered an "essential" traveller, the next time you fly or drive to USA you may get flagged at the border.

When a person is refused entry to USA from Canada they are given a written record of denial. This document will state exactly why the United States did not admit the individual into the country, which will be important when attempting to rectify the situation so they can reapply for admission. In some situations, a traveller is eligible to request permission from the CBP to officially withdraw their application for admission to the United States. This is called a "withdrawal of admission," and if granted by border officials allows the person to return to Canada without having to endure removal proceedings. When a person withdraws their entry application, US border officials will give him or her a "Withdrawal of Application for Admission" notification (Form I-275) that clearly states the reasons for their inadmissibility to the United States of America. The official denial of admission description for someone accused of trying to move to the USA indefinitely instead of visit temporarily will often say "including use of altered, counterfeit or fraudulent documents." While the word "fraud" is off-putting for many people, it is used because technically any itinerary shown to border officials that suggests a shorter trip across the border would be deceitful if the individual was, in fact, planning on staying in the country much longer.

Are You More Likely To Be Denied Entry Driving Across the Border or Flying to the US?

Your chances of being permitted entry into the United States of America are essentially the same at all US Point of Entry locations whether they are an inland border or at an airport. US Border Control follows the same procedures on the East Coast as they do on the West Coast, and USA preclearance at Canadian International Airports are no different. Entry into the United States is always at the discretion of the border agents, and anyone that does not satisfy American immigration officials may be denied entry to the USA even if that involves missing an expensive flight. Whether you are dealing with TSA PreCheck at a Canadian airport such as Toronto Pearson, or a CBP Officer (CBPO) at a land border, United States admissibility rules are consistently enforced according to the same standardized protocols. Other than being unable to board your scheduled flight, the process of being denied entry to USA at airport pre-clearance in Canada is similar to that of United States land border denials.

Phone Searches at USA Border

United States border agents can now demand a password to open your phone without probable cause. In 2018, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a new directive titled "Border Search of Electronic Devices" establishing criteria for mobile and laptop searches of travellers. Under these guidelines, Canadians visiting the US are allowed to put their device on airplane mode before turning it over, allowing border agents to search the contents of the phone but not download any files that are stored on the cloud. In 2017, more than 30,000 phones and computers were inspected at the US border, an increase of 60% from the previous year. Refusing to provide a device's password can cause the visitor to be denied entry. The contents of a device can also lead to the owner being refused admission. For example: photos of illegal drugs or behaviour, including marijuana consumption, can render the individual criminally inadmissible to the United States even if the activity was legal where the photo was taken. Information contained on a cellphone, such as text messages suggesting a visitor will be seeking work "under the table" while in the country, can also cause a person to be sent back home.

Flying Through the United States

Criminal ineligibility for entry into USA can affect individuals flying through the U.S. even if their final destination is not in the country. Canadians who book a flight with a layover in any US airport must be admissible to the country or else they will not be allowed to board their plane in Canada. It does not matter how short the stopover is, without an American Waiver of Ineligibility (DHS/CBP Form I-192) you risk missing your flight due to an entry denial by border officials. There are published cases of people being refused entry to the U.S. for threatening tweets, drug confessions, and even having stamps from Muslim countries in their passport, so always plan ahead to ensure you will not have a problem being admitted into America.

Does a Canadian Pardon Help Me Enter USA?

There are several unlicensed companies operating in Canada that advertise U.S. Entry Waivers but also aggressively push Canadian pardons on their customers as a solution to being denied entry to the United States. The US Government does not recognize Canada pardons or record suspensions, and the only way to overcome criminal inadmissibility to the US is with a Travel Waiver. Many of these corporations are not licensed law firms (people are paying for legal work that is not being done by a US immigration lawyer), and they are frequently upselling individuals interested in travelling south of the border with a criminal record on a Canadian Pardon claiming it will help them not get refused when crossing the United States border. This is simply not true, a Canada Pardon has zero impact on whether or not the CBP will let you into the country, and it is still very possible to receive a denial of entry due to criminality after you have been pardoned. A US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official has even explicitly said that Canadians who obtain pardons for a marijuana possession conviction due to the country's new amnesty program can still be refused admittance at the border. Consequently, a Canadian with a pardoned pot possession offense may still require a US Waiver in order to successfully travel to the United States.

Canadians are not entitled to access to the United States, and as a foreign national the ability to cross the US border is always at the discretion of US Border Agents. In addition to the many reasons listed above, there are other scenarios that can lead to a Canadian being denied entry to the United States of America. Intention to consume illegal drugs such as marijuana, even in States where the drug is legal, can result in a border refusal, as can the intention to attend a "potentially violent rally" once in the country. In January 2017, many reputable news agencies reported that several Canadians were refused entry to the United States because they were planning to attend an anti-Trump protest south of the border.

Although being denied entry into USA can be something you want to keep a secret from others, contacting a qualified legal professional and describing the circumstances that led to your denial of entry is an effective approach to mitigating the problem. If you are reading this webpage, chances are you searched Google for "Canadian denied entry to US" or something similar. Researching the topic and informing yourself in this manner is definitely the first step towards gaining access to the United States of America once again. The next step is taking action, so pick up the phone and call us today so our United States immigration lawyer can lay your options on the table via a free consultation.

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