Can I Travel to the United States with a Criminal Record?

February 19, 2016

Sometimes decisions and choices we make as youth or adults come back to haunt us in ways we may not think about. One of these situations may be having a criminal record on your files. What may seem as a minor infraction could have sever consequences in the future if you plan to travel abroad. In trying to understand the ramifications of a person criminal record let’s look at the restrictions and requirements for entry in the United States of America.

If you have any criminal record, no matter how minor or how long ago the offense, you may be refused a visa or entry to the United States. Even if you have been accepted in the past you can be denied entry based upon disclosure/discovery of your criminality. Not all criminal convictions make a person ineligible  to enter the U.S, but if a person currently has a criminal record or had one in the past it must be declared. If a person attempts to gain entry without declaring of a present or past criminal record the consequences are either permanent ineligibility or detention at a U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS) enforcement facility while a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer determines your admissibility.

A Canadian Citizen must fill out a waiver if he/she chooses to cross the boarder to see if they are admissible or not. Also the traveler must keep in mind your ability to travel to other countries while you have a criminal record will depend upon the policies of the country you wish to travel to.

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Completing an Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non- Immigrant (Form I-192) can be access CBP or U.S Port of Entry or any Canadian Airport.

The waiver application process can be lengthy (up to a year) and there is a cost of US $585.00 per application regardless of the decision on the application.

What Factors May Render a Person Inadmissible to the United States?

Factors that may render a persons "admissibility" will be determined by each country on their own...

Criminal Offences

  • the criminal offense you been convicted for
  • the length of your last conviction
  • and the sentence you received

Specific Offences That May Prevent you from Traveling:

  • murder or manslaughter
  • sexual assault
  • Robbery
  • Aggravated Assault
  • Involvement in Terrorism
  • Trafficking

Can a Discharge be a Barrier to Travelling to the United States?

Even though a discharge is not a conviction, it is still evidence of guilt. Depending on the seriousness of the discharge it may affect whether or not you will be granted entry. Here are some examples of cases where people have been found admissible: assault, mischief, trespass and fail to comply with a court order. However you must keep in mind if you have more the on conviction for any of these you can be denied entry
Some examples of charges where people have been found to be inadmissible include: crimes of violence, crimes of sexual assault, and crimes of moral turpitude which include: fraud, possession of stolen  property and drugs offences to name a few.

Can A Peace Bond Affect My Ability to Travel to the United States?

A peace bond is not an admission of guilt, and will not result in a criminal record However, the authorities will have a record of the Peace Bond therefore you should consider waiting until these records are removed from your file.

It's often said that actions have consequences. Poor decisions of past can and will can restrict your wanting to travel to the U.S.

Know your rights so you can travel safe and legally.

By: Julia Logozzo

Julia studies Justice Studies at Guelph Humber University.

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