Jay Treaty

The Jay Treaty, signed in 1794 between Great Britain and the United States, provides that American Indians may travel freely between the two countries. Under the treaty and corresponding legislation, Native Indians born in Canada (who have 50% or more blood quantum) are entitled to freely enter the United States for a variety of purposes, including but not limited to employment, study, and immigration. However, Canada has not provided reciprocity of these conditions, and therefore may deny you entry into the country if you’ve been convicted of a crime or pled to a crime in the United States. 

Pine Tree Legal Aid provides additional information about Cross Border Rights for indigenous people in the U.S. and Canada. 

Contact MILS

If you need additional assistance, please contact MILS at 231-947-0122.

History of the Jay Treaty

The Jay Treaty has been recognized as giving Canadian-born Native Americans the right to freely pass between the boundaries of the United States and Canada. Signed in 1794, the Treaty was originally an agreement between Great Britain and the United States designed to resolve trade, land, and debt disputes. Additionally it allowed citizens and subjects of both nations, as well as Indians, the right to travel

freely between the territories.

In 1952, the United States reincorporated the spirit of the Jay Treaty into law by providing for the “right of American Indians born in Canada to pass the borders of the United States,” as long as the person possesses at least 50 percent American Indian blood. In Akins v Saxbe, a federal court reaffirmed this principle, stating the Jay Treaty coupled with the 1952 law “recognized the right of American Indians to unfettered movement throughout the territories occupied by them which had been divided by the International Boundary between the United States and Canada.” 

For Canadian-born Native Americans

Here are key provisions for understanding what benefits you might be eligible for if you are Canadian First Nation:

Who is eligible for benefits under the treaty?

Native Americans born in Canada with at least 50% Native American blood.

What sort of identification do I need?

What benefits am I eligible for under the treaty?

What about my family?

In order to bring your spouse or child into the U.S. if they do not have at least 50% Native American blood, you have to sponsor them by applying to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

For U.S.-born Native Americans 

Canada does not honor the Jay Treaty requirements of free passage for Native Americans. To enter Canada, you will need (1) valid identification and travel documents, such as a passport and (2) Tribal ID and State ID/driver’s license. You may be denied entry into Canada if you’ve been convicted of a crime or pled to a crime in the United States. If you are a U.S. citizen and have been convicted of or pled to a crime in the United States that is or may be considered a crime in Canada, then you may apply for entry into Canada by being “Deemed Rehabilitated,” requesting “Individual Rehabilitation,” applying for a pardon, or requesting a Temporary Residence Permit.

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