In 1985, I was convicted of attempted theft in Canada (I broke a car window). I am a Canadian citizen and currently live in Vancouver, Canada. Last May, I tried to enter the United States, but was denied entry because of my 1985 conviction. I have no other criminal record. Interestingly, two years ago when I tried to cross the border, I was sent to secondary inspection, detained and questioned for 2 hours, but allowed to enter. During my detention, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) managed to damage my classic car that I was traveling in a the time. I filed a claim against them, but it was eventually settled out of court. Last August, my criminal record was completely expunged. CBP claims they can still hold my previous criminal conviction against me. I only cross the border for car shows, charity fund raising events, and to visit friends. Outside of my 1985 conviction, I have never had any other legal issues. Can you provide me with any input as to whether I am admissible to the United States, I can't seem get a consistent answer from CBP?
Thank you for contacting the SRW Border team with your question. You are certainly not the first person to receive inconsistent answers from Customs and Border Protection (CBP). As I recently told a client, CBP officers may be professional and at times helpful, however, in reality, officers should never be your only source of guidance regarding your immigration matters.
We receive many questions relating to previous criminal convictions and their ramifications on admissibility. While each case we receive is different, our initial approach is always the same: through our consultation process, thoroughly review the case and then discuss the case in detail with the client and determine the best strategy moving forward depending on our clients goals.
I imagine that the claim you filed against CBP may have resulted in some ill will; however, CBP cannot use that as a ground for denying your admission into the United States. As far as your conviction is concerned, we would like to review your complete court record to determine: (1) if the conviction makes you inadmissible to the United States for immigration purposes, and (2) how the current disposition of the conviction affects your admissibility. Even though your conviction is from 1985, was your sole conviction and it has been expunged, if it indeed is an ‘conviction’ as defined under the Immigration & Nationality Act, it could very well mean that you are inadmissible to the U.S. under INA §212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I). However, as mentioned above, we would need to determine whether you do indeed have a ‘conviction’ for immigration purposes, whether it falls under any of the enumerated exceptions, etc. In the event that your court records do not provide enough information, we will likely ask that you request your RCMP. It may even be beneficial to make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain your complete CBP record.
Once we understand the disposition of your conviction and how it affects your admissibility, we will likely have one of two choices: (1) if our research determines that you are indeed inadmissible to the U.S. because of your criminal conviction, help you prepare a nonimmigrant waiver application packet (Form I-192) for submission to the Admissibility Review Office; or (2) if our research indicates that you are not inadmissible, we can provide a service called a “controlled admission.” A controlled admission typically includes the following: (1) a comprehensive professional analysis of the client's U.S. immigration issue(s); (2) preparation and submission of a detailed packet outlining the reasons why you are admissible to U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) at a local Port of Entry; and (3) attorney accompaniment to the local Port of Entry for your admission.
For more information about your case, we encourage you to contact our office and schedule a consultation to speak with the SRW Border team and receive a thorough professional analysis of your case. We look forward to hearing from you.