One of the most common questions we get asked is “what is the difference between a pardon and a US Entry Waiver?”. Many people believe that because they have a criminal record they automatically need a US Waiver to enter the US. This belief is false.
A US Entry Waiver is really only required if you have been denied entry to the US. Usually the denial is a result of having an old criminal record that was never pardoned, so its still showing up when a criminal background check is performed. The Americans have access to the CPIC records which is the rcmp files. If you have been fingerprinted by the police and have never recieved a pardon or record suspension or file destruction then the charges can still be seen on record.
If you have been denied entry to the US, you will need a US Entry Waiver or I-194 to return to the US. This application is complicated and can be costly and will need to be renewed throughout your lifetime.
If you have never been denied entry to the US but you have been fingerprinted by the police, its important to apply for a pardon, record suspension or file destruction. This will effectively remove the charges from CPIC or the RCMP files. Once this occurs, you will likely be safe to travel as the Americans check CPIC when doing a criminal background check.
Regardless of your situation, it is important to inquire prior to traveling to the US by calling Pardons Canada at 1877-929-6011 x3 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, in order to understand the risk of traveling in your specific situation.