People are confused about what the US policy is for allowing Canadians to enter the US with a Canadian criminal record. Here is a typical example of a question we often receive by email or by phone regarding being safe to travel to the US with a criminal record:
“I received a pardon in 1993. In February 2016 my husband and I were travelling from Osoyoos BC into Oroville Washington just on a day trip. At the US border I was asked if I had ever had a criminal record to which I had been pardoned and I said yes. After being sent to the office and filling out a form I was granted entry into the US. I was also advised by the officer that the next time I plan on traveling to the US that I should carry my pardon document with me as they won’t able to bring up anything regarding my pardon/conviction which was for shoplifting. Does that mean I am now being “flagged” on their system when traveling to or via the US? I will be traveling via the US to another country in a couple of months. Would my pardon document be acceptable or do I need to have a waiver?”
While it is true that the Americans do not recognize pardons, it is our belief that once a pardon is granted the Americans cannot see the criminal record. In this person’s case, she told them she had a pardon or record suspension and then she was flagged. Once you are flagged in the US system then you likely need a US Entry Waiver or I-192 or I-194 to return to the US. The application process for a US Entry Waiver is complex and expensive but definitely achievable as we help hundreds of Canadians each month to obtain US Entry Waivers.
If you have never been denied entry to the US, then its a good idea to obtain a pardon or record suspension so that in the future when you travel to the US, they will not see that you have a criminal record and you will not be denied entry.