Few things are as good for the soul as travel. The ability to go to a new place, a new city or culture can change people for the better, expanding their ideas, creating new friendships, memorable experiences, and maybe even giving people a new favourite food they will enjoy for the rest of their life. If you have the means to travel, it’s highly recommended you broaden your horizons and see a new place for some new experiences.
Unfortunately, as positive an experience as traveling can be, there are some Canadians who may have some difficulty in getting to see other parts of the world, even parts as close as the United States. While it’s not an absolute guarantee of being barred from entry, having a criminal record can affect your chances of crossing the American border.
Rolling the Dice
Whether you are driving across the border or hopping on a plane at the airport, one of the first things you will need to deal with is the CBP or Customs & Border Protection of the United States. This the front line of defence for the US that is designed to keep illegal materials out of the country, as well as people that could pose a threat to domestic safety, including criminals and terrorists.
Of course, one of the biggest challenges of the job for the CBP is sheer volume; tens of thousands of people cross the border between Canada and the US every day, and there is a lot of pressure not to “jam the traffic” of all of those travelers.
This means that every time you go to the airport or drive to the border, your travel experience may be very different. On some occasions, you may simply present a passport, answer a few routine questions, and then be sent on your way. On other occasions, you may be asked a series of more and more detailed questions. You may even be brought in for an interview and asked more questions if the CBP officers don’t like what they’ve heard, or they may conduct a more thorough search of your belongings or vehicle than what you’re used to.
Which is to say that crossing over the USA may be fast and efficient, or could be detailed and intensive. You simply never know. And one of the things that will flag you is a previous criminal record.
It May or May Not Happen
Legally, the CBP is empowered to bar you from entry to the United States if you are found to have a criminal record. Of course, they are not obligated to run a background check on every single Canadian citizen that is at the airport, or at the border. So you can possess a criminal record, and have that record verifiable on the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), but if the CBP officer you are dealing chooses not to conduct a check, then you may be admitted through.
On the other hand, if a CBP officer does decide to conduct the check and the CPIC network notifies them that you have a criminal record, you can be barred from entry, even though you are already at the border or at the airport.
Solving the Problem
If you need to travel to the US for work purposes, being barred from entry into the USA can be a serious issue, but there is a way around this. You need to get a document called a US Entry Waiver. By presenting this document, even with a criminal conviction record present, the CBP can still admit you into the country and you can conduct your business.
Pardons Canada knows the procedures required to successfully secure an entry waiver, and we can help you with the entire process.
What If You Already Have a Record Suspension?
Here’s where things can get a little bit complicated. Once the CBP has flagged you for an existing criminal record, they download that CPIC information into their own network, and it stays there as an FBI file. This means that even if you successfully get a Record Suspension in Canada, your criminal conviction remains in the CBP computers and you will STILL need a US entry waiver to cross the border.
However, if you got your Record Suspension BEFORE the CBP ever conducted a background check of you, then they will see the same thing that any Canadian would when they do a check, and you will read as “clear” to the CBP background check.
Having a record can make things difficult if you need to travel to America. At Pardons Canada, we always recommend holding off on travel to the US until you receive your Record Suspension. Remember that even if your final destination is somewhere else, if you have a stopover in the US you will need to pass through the CBP.
Call Pardons Canada today so we can answer any questions you may have about the process. We have been helping Canadians obtain Record Suspension and US Entry Waivers for over 25 years and are here to help.