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Pack waiver, passport, patience when crossing border with criminal record

Gloria Bacci, The Windsor Star
Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2007

When crossing the U.S. border, patience is almost as important as your passport, especially if you have a criminal record.

Over the past three years, Windsor immigration lawyer Drew Porter has seen a threefold increase in the number of inquiries from Canadians with past convictions who require a waiver of admissibility to gain entry into the States.

"One with convictions is automatically subject to scrutiny and in most instances, they will be denied entry and sent back to Canada," said Porter, of Hulka Porter LLP.

As of July 2007, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued over 3,400 waivers, said spokesperson Kelly Klundt.

In 2006, about 3,700 were administered. But, Klundt said U.S. Customs isn't seeing a drastic increase in the number of Canadian waiver requests, nor are they rejecting more people at the border.

"We are vigilant in how we carry out our jobs," she said. "We have the same goals of securing our borders while facilitating legitimate trade and travel."

"It's important to both countries that we conduct proper screening and ask the necessary questions," said Klundt.

But in recent years, Porter said certain border crossings have started to resemble parking lots due to heightened scrutiny at U.S. customs.

Immigration lawyer Drew Porter has seen an increase in the number of Canadians with criminal records who require waivers to enter the United States. Here, Porter poses at his office, in the 100 block of Tecumseh Road.
Ian Willms, The Windsor Sta
r

"It's going to have a cumulative effect," he said. "It's going to hold up the line."

Porter said 9-11 was an impetus for a lot of U.S. border policy change.

"It takes time for these policies to come to fruition," he said. "And we're seeing this policy manifest now at points of entry."

James Scarfone, also an immigration lawyer in Windsor, said it can take up to nine months to obtain a waiver, which costs US$545.

Even if a waiver is secured, Scarfone said entry into the U.S. isn't guaranteed.

"At any time, an officer can turn you back," he said.

o make border crossings as painless as possible for Canadians with prior convictions, Porter recommends they travel with their criminal records.

In addition, he said it's important to be honest and forthright with border guards.

Too many Canadians are under the assumption that entry to the U.S. is a right, when really it's a privilege, said Porter.

What is a waiver?

  • An I-192 waiver of admissibility is required to enter the U.S., if you are a non-resident who has been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) or certain drug offences.
  • CIMT vary between states, but are generally regarded as crimes that involve malice of forethought and grievously offend the moral code.
  • Certain exemptions are available to negate the necessity of a waiver.
  • Visit www.cbp.gov