Posts Tagged ‘Waivers’

Canada’s Legalization and The Border, One Year Later

Thursday, October 17th, 2019 by W. Scott Railton

Canada’s Cannabis Act went into effect on October 17th, 2018, after years of politics, hearings, and preparations. We had a small part to play in the run-up, as concerns materialized about how legalization might impact cross-border travel. I received many inquries from the Canadian and U.S. media, and even testified before Parliament on the subject. There were some who said legalization would lead to long lines at the border, and a surge in lifetime bans related to admissions.

So, one year later, where do things stand?

For the months following legalization, I felt there were less questions at the border about marijuana, generally. I don’t think officers were under special instruction, but the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said things were basically the same as always, since the U.S. hadn’t changed its laws. Nonetheless, I saw and heard of less cases where people were denied entry and/or banned for marijuana related activities.

The focus of the agency seemed to be more on industry workers and travel, than on marijuana use. I did hear of cases where persons in the Canadian industry were denied travel to the U.S. to participate or attend marijuana business conferences, which there are many of. CBP had already said someone would not be barred for working in the legal Canadian industry, but the cross-border piece seemed to create hang-ups.

I also have seen many cases of denied trusted traveler applications (NEXUS and Global Entry programs), as well revocations in cases where individuals are either investors or workers in the industry, or family members of the same.

For those who travel on the visa waiver program (ESTA) and are denied, acquiring a visitor visa has been challenging after the fact, and the revocation of ESTA a serious hardship.

The rise and prevalence of cannabidiol has also become an issue in cross-border travel, as we are seeing some cases where persons are denied entry for having drops, pills, and other related CBD products. The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill was passed in the U.S., legalizing hemp-based products with no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This has led to various questions from both investors and consumers.

In the past few months, we have seen a surge in the use of expedited removal at local ports of entry. Expedited removal is an administrative deportation at a port of entry. Typically, a five year ban is applied, although it is a lifetime ban if the basis is misrepresentation. Waivers are available for future temporary admissions, via an expensive and burdensome waiver process. Expedited removals aren’t applied for criminal convictions or admissions, but the agency can make such a finding and then determine a person isn’t in possession of appropriate immigration documentation.

Generally speaking, nonimmigrant waiver and permission to re-enter adjudication timelines have improved, possibly due to the new on-line filing system. However, the agency seems to have gotten tougher in granting some waivers, such as those for persons denied admission related to illicit trafficking.

It is now apparent that other types of issues may loom large as future cross-border concerns. The underground market in cannabis continues in Canada, which can lead to activities which form sufficient basis to violate Canada’s Criminal Act.

There are many other ways to violate Canada’s Cananbis Act, and in doing so create other bases for inadmissibility. Privacy concerns abound regarding the electronic aspects of marijuana business, as well as electronic searches and seizures at the border. Because the many issues surrounding legalized cannabis can be confusing, training of officers and education of the public persist as concerns.

By and large, though, I will say that many of the cross-border issues that were concerns prior to legalization, such as long lines at the border or random Q&As on past use, have not materialized on a large scale.

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Posted in General, Marijuana and Immigration, Scott Railton |

Increase in Expedited Removals at the Northern Border

Friday, December 8th, 2017 by W. Scott Railton

We are seeing an increase in expedited removals at the border in recent months. This is to be expected, based on the Trump Administration’s Executive Orders on immigration and the subsequent memos issued by the Department of Homeland Security on implementing these orders.

Expedited removal is authorized under section 235 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. If an officer determines a person has made a material misrepresentation, claimed citizenship falsely, or doesn’t have the appropriate documentation to enter the U.S., an expedited removal may be effectuated. Typically, we’re seeing a five year ban applied

Expedited removal usually occurs after a lengthy interview with multiple officers in secondary inspection. We’ve heard of persons interviewed on and off for four to eight hours, though eight would be unusual.

Electronic searches of phones and computers are increasingly a part of the inspection. Officers will ask questions and look for contradictions. Often, we see statements where people admit to misrepresentations, offered originally in hopes of more easily gaining entry.

Sometimes expedited removals are issued because the agency finds the applicant for admission to be an immigrant without an immigrant visa. This type of determination often happens when they learn someone has been working without authorization in the United States, or the person is seeking admission so that they can live with their spouse, perhaps with the expressed intent of “squaring away” their immigration papers later.

Expedited removal orders are tough to overturn.

The statute expressly makes the determinations beyond judicial review—that means you cannot go to court and get a judge to change the decision. Sometimes, if the order in manifestly incorrect or unfair, it is possible to take the issue up with a supervisor after the fact. Otherwise, the best available path is waivers.

The waiver process varies based on several factors, and can be complicated, lengthy, and expensive. In a nutshell, the availability of waivers depends on if permanent residence is sought, or something less permanent. Procedurally, there are differences in process for Canadians and non-Canadians. Anyone with an expedited removal order should not approach the border without legal advice and obtaining consent to reapply for admission first, as there is risk of criminal penalty.

Recovering from an expedited removal order can take time. Each case is different. We are of course available to advise on expedited removals and similar border issues, and have been doing so for many years.

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Posted in General, Scott Railton |

Staying Admissible To The United States

Friday, July 28th, 2017 by W. Scott Railton

We frequently meet with Canadians and other nationals who are concerned about their admissibility to the United States. We also advise Canadian defense attorneys about the consequences of a plea or conviction on United States admissibility. Frequently, persons arrive at the border, seeking entry, only to learn that they are inadmissible (or so the government says), and that they will need a waiver.

Here are some tips on admissibility issues, from my perspective as an immigration attorney:

1. Foreign pardons and expungements do not typically help with U.S. immigration. A conviction vacated for substantive reasons might overcome inadmissibility.

2. The sealing of criminal records can present an obstacle for U.S. immigration purposes, as the burden of proof for admissibility is upon the applicant. The U.S. government will want to see those records, even if they’re under seal.

3. Temporary visitor waivers are available, but they are costly and take months to adjudicate, and must be renewed every five years. Permanent waivers for immigrants are more challenging, but are sometimes available, depending on the past offense.

4. The definition of a conviction under U.S. immigration law includes more than just convictions. Admissions of guilt in the record may count too.

5. Any conviction “related to” controlled substances is a basis for inadmissibility. U.S. immigration law is particularly hard on all controlled substances issues. Marijuana is still considered a controlled substance under federal (national) law, even though many states have legalized.

6. Drug abuse, drug addiction, and alcohol abuse are bases for inadmissibility without a conviction. When applicable, the U.S. Government may require an expert opinion from a U.S. authorized civil surgeon on whether a person is a drug or alcohol abuser prior to admission to the United States.

7. A person is inadmissible if the government has a “reason to believe” that she is or has been a drug trafficker.

8. In general, sentences of less than a year are better (e.g. 364 days or less) to avoid the possibility of having a conviction deemed an “aggravated felony” under U.S. immigration law.

9. Misrepresentation at the border is a basis for a lifetime ban from the U.S. They may search the phone or computer, interview friends and employers, and otherwise double-check to see if someone is lying. Lifetime ban if they make that determination, which in time can be overcome through the waiver process.

10. The U.S. law on inadmissibility is a complicated area of law even for U.S. lawyers, including U.S. immigration lawyers. If there are concerns, it is best to consult with us, or someone like us. If worse comes to worse, it may be better to stop answering questions, and ask to withdraw the application for admission.

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Posted in General, Scott Railton |

Marijuana and the Border

Friday, April 21st, 2017 by W. Scott Railton

Today is April 20th, or 4-20, as marijuana legalization proponents like to say. More than half of the states have passed some form of legalization, usually by popular vote. Eight states have legalized recreational marijuana, again by popular vote. It is an astounding development in my lifetime, as the concept of legalization was quite radical little more than two decades ago.

I’ve been interested in how state legalization impacts noncitizens, since immigration is my area of law practice. Washington State and Colorado were the first to legalize recreational marijuana, back in 2012, and I knew this would present issues at the border, eventually. It seems now the issues are also coming up at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of State’s consulates abroad.

I periodically speak and write on this topic.  I am very pleased to say that this month the American Bar Association published an article I wrote, entitled “Marijuana and Immigration,” in its Criminal Justice magazine. I also received a Freedom of Information Act request back this past week, from USCIS, on its policies concerning legalized marijuana. The pdf is over 1700 pages, but 1500 pages or so are redacted. We will appeal.

The issues continue to develop, and, unfortunately, most of the news is not good for noncitizens. DHS Secretary Kelly and Attorney General Sessions say they want to crack down on marijuana. The specifics are lacking, but I am hearing some tough reports. These include:

-Adjustment of status applications being denied for spouses of U.S. citizens, because they worked for marijuana dispensary in a marijuana-legal state.

-Naturalization application denied to a permanent resident of over 10 years, because they worked in the marijuana industry in Colorado, a fully legalized state

-Denial of entry in many cases to the U.S., for admitting to having used marijuana at some undisclosed point in the past, in a foreign or U.S. jurisdiction where it was known to be illegal. No conviction is required–just a voluntary admission to a border officer, medical examiner, consular official, or other government worker. A lot of people, including former presidents, have admitted to as much in the past, and publicly. Once denied admission, a waiver must be obtained from CBP’s Admissibility Review Office, for life. Canadians have a $585 filing fee. The waiver takes months to adjudicate.

-More bad news: reportedly, they are not necessarily going to grant the waiver. We’ve just started to hear of denials for these types of circumstances.

-Also, the word on the west coast is the local ports of entry will not admit anyone working in the industry. Of course, this means accountants, who may also have other non-marijuana clients; scientists who need to test products; architects for greenhouses; and the list of professionals can go on. This is of course a multi-million dollar industry, which indeed, pays taxes, even if the standard deductions aren’t available.

-I don’t expect Consulates to issue investor visas for the industry.

The federal government is anything but transparent on these issues. The state governments need to get vocal, and force the issues, so that travel and business can be predictable. Legislators in legalized states need to fight for these businesses and opportunities, because right now at the administrative level, things are not going well for the industry or noncitizens. There is a basic lack of justice and fairness, as persons think they are ok by being truthful and are in compliance with state laws, but the federal government is playing “gotcha” with good people.

 

 

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Posted in General, Scott Railton |

BC Speaking Engagement: The Effect of a Canadian Criminal Proceeding on Ability to Enter the U.S.

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012 by W. Scott Railton

On February 11, 2012, I am honored to speak at a Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia program in Vancouver. The program is entitled “Civil Law for Criminal Lawyers,” and I will be presenting on the effect of a Canadian criminal proceeding on a person’s ability to enter the United States.

In brief, any type of criminal proceeding can have an effect on a person’s ability to enter the United States, even if that proceeding does not end with a conviction. The U.S. places the burden of proof of admissibility on applicants for admission, and so frequently CBP officers will request to review court records to make their own determination on whether an applicant is admissible. Criminal defense attorneys in and outside the United States should consider the U.S. immigration consequences of criminal activity early on in the representation, if traveling to the U.S. is a client concern. Post conviction relief is very limited after a person is convicted. The U.S. immigration laws do not typically recognize Canadian pardons.

My presentation will lay out the law in more technical terms than this, and will at some length discuss various bases of inadmissibility, such as crimes involving moral turpitude, crimes involving controlled substances, and certain forms of conduct that do not even require a conviction to create a basis for inadmissibility. I will conclude by discussing the various forms of waivers that may be available.

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Inadmissibility Waivers

Sunday, September 26th, 2010 by W. Scott Railton

Inadmissiblity waivers are adjudicated by the Admissibility Review Office in Virginia, and the adjudication standards are laid out in the Board of Immigration Appeals case, Matter of Hranka. In short, the reasons for seeking a waiver need not be “compelling.” The Hranka case lays out a three part balancing test for adjudications is applied for adjudications:

(1) The risk of harm to society if the applicant is admitted

(2) The seriousness of the underlying cause of the applicant’s inadmissibility

(3) The nature of the applicant’s reason for wishing to enter the United States.

Interestingly, the Admissiblity Review Office, which is roughly five years old, says it applies the following standards of review, which appear to be a reasonable extension of the caslaw:

(1) The nature of the offense
(2) The circumstances which led to the offense
(3) How recently the offense occurred
(4) Whether it was an isolated incident or part of a pattern of misconduct
(5) Evidence of reformation or rehabilitation.

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