Traveling to the U.S. for the Superbowl? You Had Better Have Behaved Back in 1981!

As Washington struggles with legislation to let people already in the country stay here, there’s insistence on ‘beefing up the border first’.

It may be ‘easy’ to sneak across unguarded portions of Arizona, but it’s not easy to enter the country through its airports.

Plenty of countries’ citizens don’t have to get visas to come here. But they have to request permission in advance. And pay for the privilege (that ‘fee’ is supposed to, somehow, promote rather than discourage tourism). They call that visa a ‘visa waiver’.

It’s even easier to come to the U.S. if you’re Canadian. Unless you were found with two ounces of marijuana in 1981.

Myles Wilkinson a fantasy footbacl contest – besting 4 million people — and the prize was a trip to the Superbowl.

Only he was denied entry into the U.S. because when the 50 year old man was 19, he was arrested and paid a $50 fine for something that’s now legal in Colorado and Washington State.

His consolation prize?

Beer-maker Bud Light Canada, which sponsored the fantasy football contest that Wilkinson won, has invited him to attend its Super Bowl party at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom as their guest Sunday afternoon.

It’s a good thing I’m a U.S. citizen, because I can’t imagine what I’d have to go through to come here otherwise!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Through anecdotes, I know Canada is likewise very strict with its visitor immigration control. A friend of mine was denied entry on two occasions based on a several years old DUI conviction in the United States. The two countries voluntarily share criminal history information, so your own background in your own country certainly impacts your status with the neighboring one based on its own criteria for admission. Another friend was attempting to immigrate to Canada to be with her spouse, but was repeatedly denied a resident visa because of a few petty, non-violent misdemeanors over ten years prior. The door swings both ways.

  2. Good… As Andrew said, Canada is the worst when it comes to this, so glad it happened the other way.

    My buddy got a DWAI, .07 in buffalo – and he got a FIFTEEN year ban from Canada … Unless he pays a $20k waiver fee

    That’s a joke, so glad they have to deal with it too

  3. This guy was pretty dumb. It’s common knowledge this will happen. You can cross with some foresight and cooperation with the US.

  4. When I went to Canada last they must have asked me a half dozen times if I was carrying or owned a gun. I guess you can’t live in West Virginia and not have a gun.

  5. Andrew is right. Canada has been doing this for several years even more strictly than the US. Of course no one cares unless it’s the big bad US of A.

  6. This may the first time most American’s have heard about this sort of thing due to the Superbowl but… Actually, The US has been doing this to Canadians for over 15 years! The Canadian government tried to broker a deal with The US but President Bush at the time said NO GO! So Canada just enforced a no tolerance policy.

  7. Insanity. I understand only convictions and not charges laid can get you stopped. So I guess get charged but never convicted? I’ve heard many sad tales of years ago issues and these minor issues still haunt at borders. I would take another citizenship and start a new. Someday these laws will have to change. The 19yo pot head is no “bad guy”. Shame.

  8. In the UK I often do presentations to young people in schools. They have no idea usually that one conviction, even for a minor drug possession charge, will keep them out of the USA for the rest of their lives.

  9. A DUI is considered an “indictable” offense is Canada, which is equivalent to a felony. CBSA can arbitrarily kick people back to the US much easier than CBP can send people back north (which requires multiple levels of supervisor concurrence).

    I used to see CBSA kick back black US service members who were going to go clubbing in Canada without much of any cause. They didn’t have a DUI, but would admit to a traffic citation and that would do it.

    Regarding the Canadian cited in the article. He could easily obtain a waiver of inadmissibility, but it would take some foresight. He could have even tried to get paroled in by CBP. Would have been worth a try.

    More people are crossing the border here in Washington with their medical or perceived legal MJ. They forget none of this is legal under federal law. $500 fine a pop and the federal treasury can use every penny it can get!

  10. Also Gary, the U.S. isn’t the only country with a visa waiver that charges a fee that must be processed in advance. Australia does that as well, and even when you don’t need it, like for official travel, the airlines treat you like frustrated cargo without the visa.

    I really don’t understand why you are always badmouthing our country’s immigration policies. My Thai wife came here on a multiple entry tourist visa with no difficulty in the application process and her green card application only took 6 months from start to finish. I guess we just followed the rules.

    And at least we don’t have to wait in an immigration line when departing the country. Yeah, maybe TSA is a pain without TSA Pre, but we waited 30 minutes at Incheon transit security the other night, and i find security theater and airport que mismanagement to be pretty much universal.

  11. Lol at the apologists. Because last time I checked, no where in these United States is operating a motor vehicle while impaired legal.

  12. Im from Singapore and never had any issues whenever I come into the US – usually cleared in 1 – 2 mins.
    The problem is waiting in line for up to 2 hours just for my turn is sometimes very frustrating.

    Perhaps I need an APEC card.

  13. @Carl Aussie electronic visa waiver is free for 12 months for UK and Ireland citizens at least, dont know about other countries. It really is annoying though that 80% of the ESTA fee is for “promoting tourism”! Also it’s only valid for two years and if your passport happens to renew during that time they force you to pay all over again.

  14. US immigration controls are rightly renowned for being some of the most unpleasant in the civilised world. From staggeringly long lines to rude and surly staff and seemingly pointless paperwork, it all smacks of being a government bureaucracy which has unlimited power and has lost touch with the real world. And I’m talking here about many UK friends who have no records of any sort and are arriving for a vacation with return flights already booked and whose full passport details were transmitted to the US at least 9 hours previously, as is required.

    The question of keeping out people with records is entirely different. I suspect Gary’s citing of the marijuana saga is a classic case of slipping through the cracks. It was strictly illegal then and nobody has bothered to change the law to separate past convictions for offences which are no longer criminal from past convictions which remain serious. If it had been a crime of violence, I don’t suppose it would have made the headlines.

    Finally, DUI is a different case altogether. Whilst not a criminal offence anywhere AFAIK, it is treated far more seriously in many countries outside the US than at home. Certainly more so than possessing a small amount of marijuana.

  15. @Carl – you can get the Australia ‘electronic travel authority’ for free and it can be issued at the airport prior to boarding. There’s no outbound immigration clearing in Canada or the UK, either.

  16. Sometimes as US citizens its hard for us to imagine the rights we have lost to a over-reaching Federal government. However, when you look at the trajectory of the law it is staggering, I think that visitors are more likely to experience it first.

  17. Please, let’s get this right going forward (not just you) – it’s the Super Bowl, two words. Thanks!

  18. anglo saxon immigration is just ridiculous. and the US is by far the worst. Being a US citizen, it is completely ridiculous that the US is the hardest country for me to enter. Almost anywhere I go I get stamped in with no questions or suspicions. I come home and the CBP always has 20 questions to the point of almost saying “Oh my GOD you went on vacation outside the USA!?!!?! that is highly suspicious!!! why would you want to leave the country ever!?!?!”
    when I go to Europe for years I would just flash my passport at the immigration guys and that was it. not even a stamp. (Britain and Canada are more like the USA)

  19. “As Andrew said, Canada is the worst when it comes to this, so glad it happened the other way.”

    So because the Canadian government does a lot of stupid shit, the US government is justified in doing the same stupid shit?

    Cool argument, bro.

  20. I have SOME sympathy for this guy, but not a whole lot. He broke the law. Period. If you want to enter the US (or any other country, for that matter), don’t break the law. Entry into the US (for foreigners) is not a right.

  21. We are currently realizing that might run into the same problem when we try and get into the US next year to go to Disney. My FiL has an attempted murder beef from 30 years ago, he went after the guy who raped his wife, both of them ended up in jail. Of course the raper got less time…

  22. I would like to clear up a couple of misconceptions..1st I was not planning a trip to the states anytime soon, the waiver process is long expensive and you have to keep re applying each time. it can take up to 12 months to complete EACH Time. In what world do you haters out there think its ok to persecute someone over and over for a petty charge from 32 years ago ?
    I do shoulder a large part of the responsibility for not making it across the line, and I also realize it is just as hard for us citizens to enter Canada, which is also very wrong. I found out I had won 15 days before i was to leave for New Orleans, I spoke with 2 lawyers and Customs officials prior to my attempt. US Customs had the ability to grant me a 1 time pardon for $65 us dollars for this 1 trip and still chose to deny me, This is just plain wrong. The ironic part of this whole messed up story is I have been to the states approx 3 dozen times since 1981 when i got this charge…The System is Messed up for us all. Thanks for hearing what i had to say and Peace to you All

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