US refusal- what not to do
Speaking to someone who has just been refused entry to the States because of their criminal record is normally a fairly dismal experience. Aside from the embarrassment that he or she has suffered at the hands of US Customs (who are not known for being terribly discreet or tactful in dealing with these matters) this person has now just lost out on a trip. For business travelers, this probably means that they will have some major explaining to do- be it to their business partners, potential clients, or worse: employers. Of course people traveling for pleasure don’t necessarily have it any easier. They have to deal with the heartbreak of missing out on a vacation that probably involved a lot of careful planning and some serious credit card deposits. They may also find themselves in hot water with spouses and children who were not aware of their criminal past (why can’t we go to Disney World anymore, daddy???). There is no denying that being found criminally inadmissible to the USA is not a pleasant experience. Of course, your best option is to avoid this happening in the first place by applying for a pardon or a waiver. But for those of you who refuse to listen to my sage advice and who continue to risk their luck at the border, here are some ways of minimizing the damage when the day eventually comes that you get hauled in for secondary inspection.
First and foremost: do NOT get angry with the US Customs and Border Protection Official who is refusing your entry. She may be the most discourteous person in the world, but telling her so is not going to gain you any points. Worse, it could land you in jail. Remember that it is ILLEGAL to attempt to enter the United States if you have ever been arrested for certain crimes. You should be thanking the officer for not cuffing you and for allowing you to withdraw your application for entry instead.
Tying in to my first point; try not to take it personally. I realize that it may be humiliating, but you are being refused because the Immigration and Nationality Act says that you are not welcome, not because the border guard is trying to ruin your day. The legislation surrounding admissibility is extremely complicated and border guards will err on the side of caution if there is any question about whether you are legally allowed to be in their country. It doesn’t matter that your conviction is 40 years old or that it was â€œjust potâ€. The law says you’re out, period. And the border guards are simply paid to enforce the law.
Finally, whatever you do, do NOT try to reenter at another border crossing if you have already been refused. All ports of entry are linked and an officer at Pearson airport can very easily see that you have just been refused at Calgary. Customs officials do not take kindly to being toyed with so attempting to jump the border in this way can bring severe repercussions. Moreover, incidents such as this are taken into consideration when Homeland Security reviews your waiver application. This could be difference between a one and a five year waiver. So don’t do it.
All in all, though it may be hard to admit, there is no one to blame but yourself if you are refused entry. Ultimately, it is always your responsibility to find out about a foreign country’s admissibility requirements before you plan to travel there. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the embarrassment of a refusal at the border. A quick phone call or email to our office will let you know if you can go ahead with your honeymoon in Maui or if you need to make other plans.