Things have changed a lot in the USA in just a few months. With a new President, sweeping changes have been made to the visa and visitation policies that the Customs & Border Patrol—or CBP—are now empowered to enforce. And while Canada is not on the list of prohibited countries that are automatically banned from entry into America, one thing has been made abundantly clear: the CBP is now being more aggressive with background checks.
For most Canadians, this is not going to make much of an impression on entry into America, except in the sense that lines and waiting times may get longer. But for other Canadians, this can mean that a country that formally welcomed them without incident now has a high barrier to entry, as Ken Drake found out in January of 2017.
The Folly of Youth
When Ken Drake, of Hamilton, Ontario, was 18 years old in 1969, he lived on his own, in a rented apartment in Hamilton. When he moved out of the apartment, his friends, who were helping the move, took some floral prints that didn’t actually belong to Drake. The landlord, not tolerating any theft, accidental or not, called the police, and Ken Drake was charged with theft.
For 47 years, nothing came of it, Drake went on to have a productive, successful life, and even bought a retirement home in Florida so he could enjoy the warm weather there as Canada’s famously cold winters raged on. Then, on January 22nd, while trying to fly to his retirement home, he was stopped by the CBP in Detroit, where he was driving across the border for the flight at the airport to Florida.
After decades without incident, the CBP decided to conduct a background check and his conviction was pulled from the Canadian central police database. He was stopped, searched and barred entry to the United States. Ken Drake is now selling his retirement home in Florida, and is basically “done” with entering America.
Why It Happens
The CBP has every legal right to stop visitors to the US and conduct a background check. If something comes up on that background check, even if it is a 47-year-old conviction for petty theft, the presence of that criminal charge can revoke any and all future entry into America. In other words, once you are “flagged” on the CBP computer systems as being a convict, former or otherwise, you may be forbidden from ever setting foot in America again, even if you have friends, relatives, or business there.
Of course, if you do have a conviction, but qualify for a Record Suspension in Canada, then as long as you take the time to get that Record Suspension before entering America, any criminal background check they conduct will come up empty. However, if you don’t have this done, and the background check occurs, that information stays permanently in the CBP records, even if a later Record Suspension purges it from the Canadian system.
It also means that you may get lucky and not have another CBP guard decide to conduct a check, but if they do, you will now be in knowing violation of immigration law, and the CBP treatment will be much stricter—and possibly even more embarrassing—because of it. Entire buses have been denied entry across the border because one person in the vehicle had a record.
Options Still Exist
Even though Ken Drake eventually decided to abandon all hope of going back into the USA, his barrier wasn’t permanent. A US Entry Waiver is a special document that can be presented to the CBP that will allow a Canadian to enter America even with the presence of a conviction in their computer records.
It takes time, and there will be some administrative costs to pay, but it is possible to re-enter the US even with CBP files permanently flagging you as having a criminal conviction. Pardons Canada knows exactly what to do and where to go if you have already been flagged by the CBP. We can help if you need to regularly enter America but now have background check problems that make it difficult.