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Canadian Admissibility Issues and Past Criminal Convictions — Part 1: The Effect of Juvenile Delinquency on U.S. Admissibility

Dear Berardi Immigration Law:
Over 25 years ago, when I was only 16 years old, I made a stupid decision and stole some items from a local department store. I was convicted as a minor for the offense of Theft Under $200. I have not committed any crimes since. I would now like to enter the U.S. to bring my children to Disney World, but I am worried that my record will cause problems at the border. What should I do?
Nervous Canadian 
Dear Nervous Canadian:
U.S. immigration law provides that non-citizens are inadmissible and/or deportable if they have been convicted of certain crimes (e.g. crimes involving moral turpitude, controlled substance violations, prostitution offenses). Rulings of juvenile delinquency, however, do not constitute convictions for immigration purposes. Berardi Immigration Law regularly assists clients like yourself, whose youthful criminal acts create potential issues at the border.
Where an individual committed a crime(s) as a minor, admissibility to the U.S. will first hinge on the age at which the individual committed the crime(s). Individuals who committed a crime under the age of 15 cannot be considered as having been convicted of a crime and therefore cannot be found inadmissible under applicable immigration law.
Individuals like yourself, who committed a crime between the ages of 15 and 18, will also not be considered to have committed a crime and thus will not be inadmissible unless they were tried and convicted as an adult for a felony involving violence. Under U.S. criminal law, a felony is an offense punishable by death or imprisonment for more than one year. A crime of violence is (1) an offense with an element involving the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another; or (2) any felony offense involving a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.
Because the offense of Theft Under $200 is not a violent felony and you were convicted as a minor, you will not likely be found inadmissible to the U.S. However, even where it appears that your criminal past won’t affect your admissibility to the U.S., it is best to always arrive at the border prepared.
To bolster a case like yours, our office regularly provides clients with customized packages that outline the reasons they are admissible to the U.S. Our clients then present these packages to CBP at the time of border crossing. To alleviate any stress about crossing the border, please call or email us today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.
Best Regards,
Berardi Immigration Law