4

A non-American friend recently had to file an ETA to travel to Canada. He had a traffic ticket in Texas about ten years ago for crossing a solid white line on a highway. He paid the fine online. Because of the ticket and because he's unusually honest, he answered the Canadian ETA question "have you ever been arrested for, been charged with or convicted of any criminal offence in any country/territory" positively.

This then ended up in a Kafkaesque situation where Canada blocked the ETA and wanted not only an FBI report but also the full disposition of the case. But the Texas court website had no record of the ticket - even when searched by name or case number. My friend was able to get the FBI report which was also blank in terms of any convictions. Submitting the FBI report with a note that the Texas court website had no records resulted in the ETA being approved, but it was a stressful two weeks for this person.

My friend is unsure what to do in the future when asked this by immigration departments (not just Canada). If there's no record of a traffic ticket, should they answer in the future "yes" or "no" when asked about criminal convictions? It's very hard to prove a negative - so if Canada had insisted on seeing the disposition from the court (and not just the FBI report), he's not sure what he would have done. Our American friends are insisting that in the future, he just answer 'no' for the convictions, but that seems wrong too in light of other people suggesting that hiding things from immigration is much worse than just being open about it.

  • 5
    Keep in mind that there is a difference between a criminal offense and a civil offense. Most things like parking tickets and speed excess are usually civil offenses and hence do not fall in the criminal category. In particular in Canada, a getting a criminal offense conviction requires you or a legal representative seeing a judge. – Itai Mar 24 '17 at 19:11
  • The receipt for the court fine said it was for the "The State of Texas vs. J____ D____" -- which caused the apperception that it was criminal? But not so? – RoboKaren Mar 24 '17 at 19:12
  • p.s. The Municipal Court of Austin (where this happened) seems to think that traffic tickets are criminal, "The courts adjudicate Class C misdemeanor cases most of which are criminal, including traffic, city ordinance, state code, juvenile, and disabled parking." -- or is this a misreading? austintexas.gov/department/municipal-court – RoboKaren Mar 24 '17 at 19:14
  • 1
    I started to write an Answer, but there are so many permutations, it would be too difficult to fully explain, then defend. The problem is that in Texas, you are technically charged with a Class C Misdemeanor for traffic violations. In Florida, that same action results in a Civil Infraction. So, OP's friend technically answer correctly, but perhaps unnecessarily since low level traffic offenses do not make you inadmissible to Canada. – Johns-305 Mar 24 '17 at 20:23
  • 1
    @phoog To clarify, different States classify them differently. Even a Class C Misdemeanor, the equivalent to naughty, naughty is technically a criminal offense in Texas because Texas law does not provide for Civil Infractions. The State of Florida does provide for Civil Infractions and minor traffic infractions are classified as such. Now, even in Texas, traffic cases are handled by a special court where rules for records, schedules, procedures are different from 'real' criminal cases. – Johns-305 Mar 25 '17 at 12:15
1

There are so many labels and names for different severities of criminal acts: Violation, misdemeanor, infraction, nuisance, infridgement, offence, felony, 'crime involving moral turpitude' and these are just some of the categories used in some of the English speaking countries. The categorization of a specific act is very likely to differ between different jurisdictions, e.g. even between different US states, and if you also consider all other legal systems in other countries, it is obvious that it is impossible for a layman traveller to understand all aspects and facets of this subject.

If a country you are visiting is interested in details about your criminal record, but only records above a specific severity, it is usually relevant how the act had been categorized in the country you are seeking to visit and not how the act was categorized in the jurisdiction where you were convicted.

If you are unsure if a record you have is of significance, you have a few options:

  • If you fill out a visa application, the application has a yes/no question in the sense of 'have you ever been involved in shady activies' and the application allows you to provide details, I would in your case have answered 'yes' and then told that I have been fined for 'crossing a solid white line on a highway'.

  • If you fill out a visa application, the application has a yes/no question in the sense of 'have you ever been involved in shady activies' and you have no option providing any details about the act and it is not obvious that the act may be of relevance, I would first have tried to contact a consulate or embassy of the country I seek to visit, to clarify if you have to reveal it in your application.

Answering 'no' just because you think that the act is of no relevance can easily be deemed as deception and both lead to rejection of your current application and a following lengthy entry ban, even if the act itself would have been irrelevant if you had revealed it.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.