Many people believe that a criminal record automatically makes a person inadmissible to the United States. But not all criminal convictions are equal when it comes to travel to the United States. Only convictions that are considered Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT) prevent offenders from entering the United States.
Moral Turpitude is a legal concept used as the standard by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to determine if a person may enter. Moral turpitude has no precise legal definition. There is no statutory definition or definitive list of what constitutes a CIMT.
What is a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude?
Offences that are considered Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude change over time depending on court decisions and political factors. CIMT commonly refers to “conduct that is considered contrary to a community’s justice, honesty, or good morals”. However, Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude should always involve a degree of dishonesty and/or any crime that harms another.
Will My Convictions Prohibit Travel to the U.S.?
Criminal convictions that are likely to prohibit travel to the United States include:
- Sexual Assault, section 271
- Criminal Harassment, section 264
- Drug Offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA)
- Robbery, section 343
Some criminal convictions that may not prohibit travel to the United States include:
- Simple Assault, section 265(1)
- Mischief, section 430(1)
- Possessing Property Obtained by Crime, section 354(1)
- Trespassing to Property Act
- Carrying Concealed Weapon, section 90(1)
- Some Firearms Act violations
Recommendations Before Traveling to the United States
- Understand the entries on your criminal record.
- Check if any convictions are CIMT.
- Consider applying for a US Entry Waiver.
- Don’t lie when speaking to US Customs and Border agents.
Understand the entries on your criminal record. Customs and Border agents are remarkably familiar with Canadian criminal records and they will have access to Canadian Police Information Computer (CPIC). Know when your last conviction was and the sentence you received. Be able to talk about your convictions and sentences with confidence. Do not lie about your record or the fact surrounding outstanding charges. Agents will be able to look-up the information. You can be denied entry for lying to a Customs and Border agent.
If you have a record with CIMT entries, consider talking to a lawyer that specializes in U.S. immigration about Entry Waivers.