Canadian Admissibility Issues and Past Criminal Convictions — Part 2: The Petty Offense Exception

Dear Berardi Immigration Law:

Five years ago I exercised poor judgment and was an accomplice to an act of arson. I was assigned a few months of probation but never any jail time. This is the only crime I have ever committed. I would now like to enter the U.S. to visit some friends but I am worried that this offense will prevent me from crossing the border. What should I do?

Sincerely,
Worried Canadian

Dear Worried Canadian:

Like yourself, many of our clients believe they are automatically inadmissible to the U.S. based on a past criminal conviction and that they now require a waiver of inadmissibility to enter the U.S. While it is generally true that a non-U.S. citizen who is convicted of just one crime involving moral turpitude is inadmissible to the U.S., there are exceptions to this rule. One such exception is called the “Petty Offense” exception.

To qualify for the petty offense exception, you must show that:
• You have only ever committed one Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT);
• The conviction carried a maximum possible sentence of one year or less; and
• You were not sentenced to a term of imprisonment longer than six months.

[Please note that this exception does not excuse inadmissibility in the case of a previous drug conviction. Additionally, an individual will not qualify for the petty offense exception if the court ordered a sentence of more than six months in jail, even if he or she spent less than six months in jail.]

As long as the offense you committed did not carry a maximum possible sentence of more than one year, you may qualify for the petty offense exception (since you were not sentenced to an imprisonment term longer than six months and you never committed any other crime involving moral turpitude).

Those who qualify for the petty offense exception can enter the U.S. without first enduring the burdensome process of obtaining a criminal waiver, which currently takes upwards of six to eight months to process.

Don’t take chances on whether this exception applies to you. The experienced immigration lawyers at Berardi Immigration Law can quickly determine if your conviction is, in fact, a CIMT and if you qualify for the petty offense exception. Please contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Regards,
Berardi Immigration Law

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