Being denied entry to the US for a criminal record is quite common. What’s complicated is figuring out if you have the type of record that can result in being barred.

The last thing you want to do is put your savings into a family vacation only to find out at the border that you can’t enter.

Moral turpitude and denied entry

Generally, the US will deny entry if the crime on your record is a crime of “moral turpitude.” This can be difficult to interpret. The best thing to do is to contact us for a free consultation. Some crimes won’t result in inadmissibility. However, if you have multiple offences, you may be barred.

Also, keep in mind that you don’t even need a criminal record to be denied entry. Numerous Canadians have been barred for admitting to smoking pot at the border. As well, discharges can make you inadmissible. The border officer can access discharges that have not been removed. Often the officer will ask you if you have ever been arrested. If they suspect you have committed a “crime of moral turpitude” you could be barred.

If you are barred from the States due to a crime of moral turpitude, you can apply for a waiver. A US Entry Waiver is a preclearance document that allows entering the US with a criminal record for anywhere from six months to five years. Six-month waivers are rare and usually only apply to people with serious, recent convictions.

The following is not legal advice and these situations can change from time to time. We do not know the details of your particular case and often border officials will exercise discretion.

How the most common charges stack up

Impaired driving:

One of the most common convictions in Canada – impaired driving or DUI / DWI – will not normally result in barred entry.

Drug possession:

On the other hand, drug possession will get you banned, even if it was for personal use. Needless to say, any kind of trafficking will get you barred. You may have heard that Washington State has legalized marijuana. This doesn’t mean that you can cross the border into Washington with pot-related charges. Marijuana possession is also a federal offence and the border officers are expected to follow federal law.


Theft is usually considered a crime of moral turpitude. However, if you “accidentally borrowed” something with the intention of bringing it back, you may not need a waiver. An example is joyriding as long as you did not intend to keep, destroy, or sell the car. Many people think shoplifting is a minor offence, however, it is usually considered a crime of moral turpitude and you would most likely need a waiver.

Failure to comply with an order:

This is another extremely common conviction in Canada. However, it normally won’t cause you to be barred from the United States. Other charges involving your obligations to the justice system won’t necessarily bar you. However, the reason you were involved in the court system in the first place could be a problem.


There are many different types of assault, such as sexual assault, assault with a weapon, aggravated assault, etc. These vary in the level of seriousness. Generally, the least serious type, “common” or “simple” assault, will not result in a ban. If you had one summary conviction and did not serve any significant jail time, you are likely admissible. Since there are many circumstances that would lead to a denied entry, you might want to obtain your court record and take it with you when you travel to the US.

Uttering threats:

This is another common charge in Canada. If this is the only charge, you will likely be admissible. However, it could be more serious depending on the circumstances.


Mischief can be considered a crime of moral turpitude depending on the circumstances. Seriousness and intent may be considered. Mischief includes things like spraying graffiti and vandalizing property.


Fraud is usually a crime of moral turpitude, but the intent might be a factor.

The concept of moral turpitude is hard to pin down and can change over time. Sometimes cases end up in immigration court and new definitions are established. If you are a Canadian denied entry to the US or you are not sure if you need a waiver, contact us for a free consultation.