Because of the close relationship and massive border that Canada shares with its southern neighbour, the United States of America (USA), the businesses and people of these two nations are often interconnected. Many Canadians travel to the US for pleasure or work purposes, or even to visit with family who live in the USA, and vice versa. In the past, the relationship between the two countries was so relaxed that people crossing the border only had to present a driver’s license, in order to cross over.
Nowadays, due to security concerns, those lax days are over at the US border. Now, as with other countries, Canadians wishing to cross the US border, whether that is by plane or by car, need to have official travel documents like passports, and often they will be subject to a security background check.
For most Canadians, a background check doesn’t pose much of an issue. But for some people, with criminal convictions on their public record, this is enough to deny entry into the US no matter how necessary entry into the country may be.
There’s a way around this, though. It’s called a US Entry Waiver (I-192), but if you need to get one, just how quickly can it happen? We’ll cover this here, but first, let’s look at why you need a US entry waiver to begin with.
Any Conviction Is Valid
In theory, the presence of a criminal conviction on a Canadian’s public record is not necessarily grounds for automatic denial of entry. Technically, only criminal convictions that fall under the American definition of “moral turpitude” can be barred from entry. This covers the usual suspects, such as drug trafficking, theft, assault, fraud and others.
This means, theoretically, that even if you were convicted of drunk driving and served a short jail sentence for it, you should still be allowed into the USA. A DUI conviction, while considered a criminal offence in Canada, is not covered by the American moral turpitude definition. However, even a border officer can still decide to deny you entry based soley on the fact that you have a criminal record.
In reality, a Customs & Border Patrol officer has on-the-spot authority to bar anyone from Canada from entering the USA. A CBP officer may decide to conduct a criminal background check, see DUI conviction and allow you through, or may decide that conviction is still enough grounds for denial, and be perfectly within American legal rights to do so.
One thing that many Canadians erroneously believe is that if you are barred at the US border because you had a conviction on your record, then everything will be fine once you get a record suspension—or pardon, as it was formerly known. This is false. Even if you get a record suspension after the fact, and attempt to cross the border, you will STILL be denied entry and require a US entry waiver.
The reason for this is because once a background check has been conducted, if the CBP access the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and find a conviction it is downloaded to the American database. Now, no matter what you do in the future, that conviction is permanently in the American computer system, and even a record suspension doesn’t “cancel out” that record.
The Waiver Exemption
A US entry waiver is what is known as an advance permission, and is approved of by the Admissibility Review Office of the USA. Once you obtain an entry waiver, you will have legal permission to enter the USA from anywhere between six months and five years. In general, a waiver will take anywhere between six months and one year to process, and it has very strict requirements for approval.
Unfortunately, because of shifting policies and priorities with the US government and border security, those policies for approval are subject to change. So what might have been a requirement for entry three years ago, may no longer be valid today. The only way to know for sure is to maintain constant awareness of current waiver policies.
We Can Help
If you need to travel to the USA for work or other purposes, and you have a criminal conviction, we can make your waiver application process much smoother and easier. Just explain to us your case and your conviction record, and we can guide you through the process of applying for a US entry waiver. We’ll ensure that you meet all the requirements, and show you what steps you should take to expedite your application as quickly as possible.