A common concern for individuals facing a pending criminal charge is whether they can travel to the United States. While, in theory, the U.S. Immigration Act suggests admissibility for those with pending charges, there are nuances and potential challenges at the border.

The General Rule

  • Admissibility:
    • The U.S. Immigration Act generally allows individuals with pending charges, who haven’t been convicted, to be admissible into the United States.

Caveats and Exceptions

  • Border Guard Discretion:
    • Border guards may not be legally trained and could misinterpret the law, leading to the possibility of refusal at the border.
  • Crimes of Moral Turpitude:
    • Certain offences, such as crimes of dishonesty, theft, drug cases, sexual assault, and serious violent crimes, may pose challenges even with pending charges.

Special Cases

  • DUI and Simple Assault:
    • Generally, individuals with pending charges for DUI and simple assault should be able to cross.

Advisory and Consultation

  • Legal Advice:
    • While this provides a general overview, seeking advice from an immigration lawyer is crucial for a more accurate assessment.


Traveling to the U.S. with a pending charge is a complex matter. While the law may permit it in many cases, the discretion of border guards and specific serious offence categories can impact admissibility. Individuals are encouraged to consult with immigration lawyers for precise guidance based on their unique circumstances.

For more legal insights, explore our informative video resources.

Video Transcription:

A very common question which clients ask us is look I’ve been charged with a criminal offence. It’s pending before the courts. I haven’t plead guilty yet. I haven’t had my trial. I haven’t been found guilty yet. I am presumed to be innocent at this point. Can I travel to the United States? Am I admissible at the border? Will I get through? What will the border guard do?Well in theory, on a pending charge where you haven’t been convicted as yet the US Immigration Act says you should be able to travel and are admissible into the United States.

Now there are some caveats and some exceptions to every rule. One of the difficulties is look you are facing a border guard who is not trained in the law, who is not a Judge. They might misinterpret the law. So it comes to their attention that you have a pending charge and they may make a mistake and refuse you entry. That’s a given or a possibility at least I should say. So in theory you can cross.

In another video I cover when you can’t cross for crimes of moral turpitude like dishonesty, theft, drug cases, very serious violent crimes like assault causing bodily harm or assault with a weapon and non-moral turpitude crimes such as assault and DUI. For a DUI and simple assault you should be able to cross for a conviction. For those others you can’t. You are not admissible.

So it’s a tricky area because we have to advise clients about it. Look you might get stopped and sent home at the border even for a pending charge. If you want an absolute perfect opinion because I am not an immigration lawyer, we encourage people to consult with an immigration lawyer but I expect that’s generally what they are going to say to you regarding traveling to the U.S. with a pending charge.

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