If you have a criminal record you may or may not be able to enter the United States. The US determines admissibility based on a complicated concept known as moral turpitude.

There is no exact definition of moral turpitude in the law. This is one reason why it is so hard to understand. Crimes of moral turpitude have been established through case law and can change over time.

Courts have defined moral turpitude as “conduct which is inherently base, vile, or depraved, and contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties owed between persons or to society in general.”

There has been a constitutional challenge based on the fact that the definition is too vague, but it failed. Thus, we are stuck with this concept when determining whether a criminal charge will prevent a person from entering the US. Keep in mind that you do not need to be convicted. You could also be denied based on discharges, stayed charges or admissions of guilt. If possible, avoid telling a border officer that you have committed a crime, including having used marijuana.

If you were convicted of a crime where the maximum sentence would be a year and you served less than six months, you may be able to qualify under the petty offence exception.

Crimes of moral turpitude

Fraud, theft, with intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property, and crimes where there was intent to harm someone, for example, sexual assault or assault with a dangerous weapon, are generally considered crimes of moral turpitude. As well, US law takes any charge where drugs are involved very seriously. If you were ever charged with possession or trafficking you will be ineligible to enter the United States.

Drunk driving is not considered a crime of moral turpitude as there is no intent to harm. Even multiple offences will not cause you to be denied, unless it appears to demonstrate that you have an inadmissible medical condition, such as alcohol addiction. However, a DUI could be considered moral turpitude if there were aggravating factors, such as impaired driving with a suspended or revoked licence.

What can you do?

A US Entry Waiver will allow you to enter the United States with a crime of moral turpitude on your record. The process to apply for a waiver is lengthy and can be complicated. You will need to obtain court records, local police checks, reference letters, evidence of employment or income, evidence of rehabilitation and other documents.

Compiling these documents may take four to six months. Once you have submitted them, it could take another four to six months for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to make a decision.

For assistance with your US Entry Waiver, or to find out if your record involves a crime of moral turpitude, contact AllCleared at 1-866-972-7366.