It is essentially illegal to attempt to enter the U.S. with a criminal record unless you have appropriate immigration status or you have a U.S. entry waiver. Here is some important U.S. entry waiver information to be aware of.

Haven’t Been Caught at the U.S. Border Yet?

You may have often passed through the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) after answering a few standard questions about your citizenship and the purpose of your trip. You have been lucky. It is becoming more common for the CBP to ask for identification for the purpose of conducting an RCMP computer criminal record search.

What is a U.S. Entry Waiver? (I-192)

Once your record has been discovered, the CBP officer will download your criminal record into the U.S. computer system, and as a result, you will have a CBP and an FBI file. Once you are denied access to the U.S., you will be required to apply for a U.S. entry permit called a U.S. entry waiver.

Refused Entry to the U.S.: The First Time

The first time a person is stopped at the border, they are surprised because they may have crossed numerous times without complication. They were lucky. Once your criminal record is discovered at the U.S. border, the CBP officer will most likely detain you for a short time and refuse you entry. It can be humiliating. The CBP officer may inform you that if you ever wish to visit America again you will need to obtain a U.S. entry waiver. You may be fingerprinted, photographed, have your CPIC info downloaded to an FBI file and further questioned.

Refused Entry to the U.S.: More Than Once

If you are caught crossing the border a second time (or more), you will likely be treated much more harshly because you are now knowingly breaking an American law. Under U.S. immigration law, CBP officers are permitted to seize your property.

The Risks of Being Turned Away

If you are travelling by bus, the entire bus may be turned away. If you are travelling by airplane, your ticket will be stamped “VOID” and you will not be able to collect cancellation insurance. It is also common for people who are stopped a second or third time to be detained for a few hours and even handcuffed. The experience can be quite devastating.

Crossing the Border Becomes More Difficult

It is much easier to be caught crossing illegally after you have been stopped the first time. This is because the U.S. now has its own files about you and your criminal record, which were created the first time you were stopped. Therefore, any search they conduct will reveal this information. If you keep trying to enter the U.S. after having been refused entry, you lessen the chances of being granted an entry waiver which would permit you to legally enter the U.S. with your criminal record.

Caught While in the U.S.: Being Deported

It is illegal to be in the U.S. with a criminal record unless you have prior permission from CBP/ARO or appropriate immigration status. If you manage to get into the U.S. and you are caught, you will probably be arrested and deported back to Canada.

Seizure of Your Property

If you are caught trying to enter or being in the U.S. illegally, CBP has the right to confiscate your vehicle and your personal property. You will have great difficulty trying to get them back. In most cases, confiscated vehicles and property are not returned. Proceeds from the sale of confiscated property belong to the American government.

Offences Leading to Inadmissibility

Strictly speaking, there are some criminal offences which should not affect your travel to the U.S. because they are not grounds for inadmissibility according to U.S. law. The problem, however, is that the U.S. immigration officials at the border turn people away for every kind of criminal record, even in cases where the charges were withdrawn. Essentially, anyone who has a fingerprint number (FPS#) associated with their name and date of birth will likely be turned away.

What to do Before Trying to Cross the Border

It is best to seal or destroy your criminal record before attempting to enter the U.S. This way, you will no longer have an FPS# associated with your name, and your record will not appear on any search conducted by CBP.

Effect of Having a Canadian Criminal Record Sealed or Destroyed

If it is not necessary to travel to the U.S. right away, it is best to remove your criminal record first.

If you have been stopped and refused entry, you should apply for a U.S. entry waiver. It is looked upon favourably if, in your waiver application, you can show that you have sealed or destroyed your file in Canada. This helps to show that you have not been in trouble for some time and that you are serious about leading a crime-free life.

If you have never been stopped at the U.S. border it means that they do not know about your criminal record. After your record is pardoned or destroyed, your FPS# no longer appears on searches that CBP conducts at the border. Therefore, they will not have access to your record.

U.S. Entry Waiver Information: General

If you must travel to the U.S. before your Canadian criminal record is pardoned or destroyed, you will need to apply for a U.S. entry waiver to legally enter. Essentially, you will be admitting and giving details about your criminal record to the U.S. federal government.

You will be required to submit fingerprints for certification by both the RCMP and the FBI. In addition to the basic application, many other supporting documents could be added to your application. Approval of your application is subjective. This means that the better your application package is, the more likely you will be to have your waiver granted. Supporting documents that should be included and which should definitely be omitted is a judgment call based on experience. Pardons Canada can help you determine what is best in your circumstances, taking into account the date of your offence, the nature of your offence, current U.S. sentiment and practices, and your personal situation.

U.S. Entry Waiver Information: Time Frames

If the application is properly completed and all the relevant supporting documents and reports are included, it takes approximately 6 to 12 months for the ARO to review your application.

Collecting and preparing all of the supporting documents can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months. In total, it will take anywhere from 12 to 24 months to obtain your waiver. Therefore, it is best to start the waiver application process well in advance of the date that you wish to enter the U.S.

Immigrating to the U.S. and Obtaining Work Authorizations

If you are considering immigrating to the U.S. or applying for work authorization, you will need to undergo a police clearance. If you have a criminal record, it will negatively affect your application and may result in your application being denied. At a minimum, you will be required to do additional paperwork.

Pardons Canada undertakes all necessary steps and procedures for removing your criminal record, including: Pardons/Record Suspensions, Purges, Photograph & Fingerprint Destruction, and U.S. Entry Waivers.

Get Canada Record Suspension Today

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about travelling to the U.S. with a criminal record. For more U.S. entry waiver information, please consult our FAQ page.

How can I find out if my criminal record is known to U.S. border authorities?

If you’ve been previously stopped or questioned in-depth at the U.S. border, your record is likely known. Pardons Canada can help in assessing your situation and guide you as to the best course of action for you to take.

Does a pardon or record suspension guarantee I won’t need a U.S. entry waiver?

A Canadian pardon or record suspension does not guarantee entry into the U.S. If your criminal record was previously known to U.S. border authorities, you likely still require a U.S. entry waiver.

How much does a U.S. entry waiver cost in Canada?

The cost of a U.S. entry waiver can vary but generally involves application fees, fingerprinting charges, and possible legal or administrative fees. Contact Pardons Canada for a detailed breakdown specific to your case.

Contact Pardons Canada for More U.S. Entry Waiver Information

Pardons Canada has been helping Canadians with criminal records receive their U.S. entry waivers for over 30 years. We can help you navigate the process effectively and give you the best chance at a successful application.

Contact us today for more U.S. entry waiver information and get started right away!

Pardons Canada undertakes all necessary steps and procedures for removing your criminal record, including: Pardons/Record Suspensions, Purges, Photograph & Fingerprint Destruction, and U.S. Entry Waivers. Get Canada Record Suspension Today