I was convicted of attempted theft several decades ago. Am I inadmissible to the United States?

Question:

I was convicted of attempted theft in Canada several decades ago. I am a Canadian citizen and live in Guelph, Ontario. Last year, I was denied admission to the United States due to my conviction. I have no other criminal record outside of the attempted theft. Previous attempts to cross the border have been successful. At one crossing, I was sent to secondary inspection and questioned for several hours, but was subsequently admitted in B-2 status. I cross the border to attend business seminars and to visit friends and family. It seems that Customs and Border Protection ("CBP") officers are arbitrarily making decisions about whether or not to admit me. Can you help settle this issue and tell me if I am inadmissible to the United States? I cannot get a consistent answer from authorities at the border.

Answer:

Thank you for your question. CBP officers are well trained, but you cannot expect that they will provide you with immigration advice specific to the facts and circumstances of your situation. As such, inconsistent answers are common because officers do not have the time to address each situation individually. Officers know the law and apply it appropriately in most cases. Recently, a client had a similar situation. I told her that CBP officers are professional and, at times, very helpful; however, the information officers provide should never be used in lieu of the advice of an immigration attorney. 

Previous Criminal Conviction

As a frequent border-crosser, I am sure you have noticed the significant shift in culture and attitude at the border over the past decade. This shift can be traced back to 9/11 and will continue to be felt for many years to come. One of the more common questions from clients is how a previous criminal conviction may affect admissibility to the United States. Each case that comes through the door is different, but my approach is always the same: set up a consultation and discuss each case thoroughly.

As far as your conviction for attempted theft is concerned, I would have to review your court record. In the event that your court records do not provide enough information, we will have to request your RCMP. We may even want to make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain your CBP record. A FOIA request is a convenient way to obtain the most complete record of your immigration history.

Once I have a better understanding of your case, I can make a recommendation on how to proceed. Based on your question, you seem to be admitted at times and then denied at others. This leads me to believe that a future admission may be possible, so we may be able to engage the border one on one. Typically, a detailed packet is presented to CBP at a local port of entry outlining your case. If the border is agreeable to our position, I can accompany you to a local port of entry to help facilitate your admission.

Please contact our office to set up a consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.