If you have a criminal record, then you probably know you can be barred from entering the United States. Before you can visit the country uninhibited, you must obtain a US waiver. However, if you're not careful, your application can be denied, forcing you to spend another year or so reapplying. Here is information about the US waiver process and what you can do to increase the odds your application will be approved.
Criminal Convictions that Require US Waivers
Not all criminal convictions bar a person from entering the United States. If you were convicted of the following crimes, however, you will be stopped at the border and sent home if you don't have a waiver:
- Trafficking and/or possession of controlled substances
- Prostitution and/or commercialized vice
- Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT), such as:
- Murder, attempted murder, voluntary or reckless manslaughter
- Rape (common or statutory), child pornography
- Child abuse, neglect, or abandonment
- Domestic violence
- Counterfeiting, willful tax evasion, fraud
- Crimes for which you were given immunity from prosecution
- Being convicted of 2 or more offenses where the combination of sentencing equaled 5 or more years of imprisonment
Criminal offenses involving driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, disorderly conduct, simple assault, and breaking and entering are not considered inadmissible offenses.
Reasons Your Application will be Denied
Officials take three things into consideration when reviewing your US waiver application:
- How likely you are to commit the same or similar crimes in the US
- The reason for entering the country
- The seriousness of any previous immigration or criminal violations
Of the three, the first reason will probably be the most likely cause of a rejection. Therefore, it's important to build a solid case showing you pose little to no risk of offending again.
Part of the process of applying for a waiver involves writing a personal statement about the circumstances surrounding the event. This is an excellent opportunity to highlight any extraordinary or unusual elements that lead to the situation. The idea is to ensure the official understands that your criminal conviction was a one-time event unlikely to be repeated in the future.
Along with the application, you may also want to send evidence of your rehabilitation, such as proof of anger management classes you've completed, a clean drug test, pay stubs showing full-time employment or character references.
The reason for your visit will also have some bearing on whether or not you're allowed entry into the country. Officials may be more amendable to approving your application if you're visiting a relative who is ill or attempting to the country on a job assignment. You may be required to furnish some evidence of these claims though.
If the crime you committed was very serious (e.g. murder), then you may have to enlist the help of an immigration attorney. The severity of the crime may be enough to deny your application regardless of any rehabilitation you may have gone through. An attorney can help you explore this issue and inform you of other legal options for obtaining a waiver.
The United States does not recognize Canadian pardons (now called record suspensions). A record suspension separates your criminal record out of the Canadian Police Information Centre, and restricts access to it. Though a record suspension doesn't wipe out your criminal conviction, it does prevent border agents from viewing it.
Obtaining a record suspension is not a foolproof way of circumventing the US waiver process. If the border officials are aware you have a criminal history, they can still deny you admittance to the country even if they can't gain access to the conviction data. The only way to legally gain entry into the United States when you have a criminal record is to obtain a US waiver. To obtain more info this process, contact a reputable attorney or immigration organization.