One of the things that travelers to the US will receive when crossing the border is a form that is filled out which states the nature of the visit. A boarder guard may also ask you if you have ever had a criminal conviction in Canada. If the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) decide to conduct a background check, if you answered that you do not have a record, the check will come up with nothing and you will be processed normally.
However, if you lie about this, and a check is conducted that discovers a criminal conviction, this changes things a lot. Not only did you have a criminal conviction, but you lied about it to an officer, and this will have a big impact on your ability to enter the country in the future, requiring extra measures be taken such as securing a US Entry Waiver for future trips.
But what about discharges? This is a more complex issue, since it means the courts in Canada have taken additional action with you and your criminal record. It means a special set of rules are in place, so let’s look at exactly how the presence of a discharge affects you and your ability to travel.
What Is A Discharge?
There are two types of discharge normally served in Canadian courts; absolute and conditional discharges. A conditional discharge is given when someone on trial for a criminal offense either pleads guilty to the charge or is found guilty by the jury. However, if circumstances show that there is no harm to the public at large, and that there would be a severe harm to the welfare of the defendant if a criminal conviction is given, a conditional discharge may be handed out instead. This means that despite the fact that the defendant has been found guilty, the court has decided not to put a full criminal conviction on that person’s record, or enact punishment, such as a jail sentence.
An absolute discharge means the court has decided to completely negate any kind of conviction. This means that the court has decided not to go ahead serving a conviction provided that the defendant meets certain criteria. This can be any number of things, from performing community services to reporting to a probation officer for a period of time, or even staying in school, or finding and holding a job.
However, even though a discharge means you don’t have a criminal conviction, the presence of a discharge remains on your record in the event a background check is conducted. For CBP purposes, a conditional discharge still amounts to a “guilty” verdict in court, and CBP officers may choose to treat a discharge similarly to an actual conviction and bar entry into the US.
The Nature of the Charge
Different convictions will have different levels of severity, and the same is true of discharges. If you have a conditional discharge for something relatively light such as trespassing or causing a disturbance, then the CBP considers this a non-excludable offence, and you would not be barred from entry.
However, if your conditional discharge is for something more severe, such as an act of violence, an act of theft, or something related to drugs, that is considered an excludable offence. The presence of a discharge in this case can still bar you from entry into the USA.
Don’t Take the Chance
In order to ensure the smoothest possible entry into the United States, you can get a Record Suspension before attempting to enter the country. This will purge your record from the Canadian criminal database, so that you can safely make no declaration of any kind and, when the CBP conduct a background check, nothing will come up.
However, if you have already been subjected to a background check before a Record Suspension, that data will be downloaded into the CBP database, and remain there, regardless of a future Record Suspension from the Canadian court. In this case, you will need a US Entry Waiver if you want to continue to be admitted to the US.
Your best course of action is to make sure you get a Record Suspension before the CBP ever conducts a background check. Whether you need assistance with getting that suspension or need help with securing a US Entry Waiver because you are already in the CBP database, we can help. Contact us for more details on how we can assist you in getting more freedom to travel to the USA.