Canada’s close ties with the US – economic, political, and cultural – ensure that Canadians traveling to the US need to present only a valid passport when crossing the border. Nevertheless, any Canadian citizen with a criminal conviction who merely attempts to do so breaks American law. A criminal conviction must be disclosed to border authorities.
The Canadian Police Information Centre shares information on criminal records in Canada with the US Department of Homeland Security. A criminal conviction will more than likely show up during a background check at a border crossing point. Unless a traveler has a valid US waiver, as a minimum he can expect to be turned back and banned from entering the US. Not only will he risk refusal for entry, he could also face confiscation of property, including possible seizure of his vehicle. This includes any vehicle with a passenger with a criminal record, not just the driver. He can even be arrested and charged.
Even if, in the past, a person with a criminal record has crossed the border without complication as their conviction has not turned up, in this electronic age information is constantly being compiled and circulated. Nowadays, a background check can reveal decades-old convictions. As well, having received a pardon might not make a difference. Canadian pardons are not recognized by the DHS; and although the CPIC will not disclose a criminal record for which a pardon has been granted, the information might have entered the American database before the pardon was granted. Finally, attempting to cross the border in remote areas where there are no guards is ill-advised. Electronic sensors exist at many points to detect suspicious movement and alert authorities.
Consequently, Canadians planning to travel to the US should note the following:
• A Canadian with a criminal conviction needs a US entry waiver of ineligibility from the DHS.
• Apply for the waiver well ahead of time – the process can take up to ten months.
• A person with a criminal record does not need to have received a pardon in order to apply for a waiver.
• A person who has been granted a US waiver cannot be refused entry at the border.
• A waiver is valid for a period of only one to five years, after which it will have to be renewed.
A waiver will allow a person to visit the United States without worry. If you need a waiver, Pardon Services Canada's role and familiarity with the process will ensure that all documents required are obtained in a timely manner and that your case is processed expeditiously. Contact a Client Specialist at Pardon Services Canada now to guide you through the process.
There has been increased media awareness of the dangers of traveling to the United States with a Canadian Criminal Record after an ever growing number of Canadians are being turned away, now needing U.S. Entry Waivers. What about Canada’s other NAFTA partner, the one with the beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, gorgeous resorts and spectacular ruins? Are these also off limits to Canadians with a criminal record?
According to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
“Canadians traveling to Mexico with a criminal record might be refused entry and returned to Canada on the next available flight. Canadians in this situation should contact the Mexican Embassy in Ottawa prior to making travel arrangements.”
“Since March 1, 2010, Canadian citizens, including those with dual nationality, are required to present a valid passport in order to enter and exit Mexico. Canadians without a valid passport will be refused entry and returned to Canada.”
So, Canadians who have a criminal record should take measures before planning a trip to Cancun or Puerto Vallarta to avoid getting turned away at the border.
In addition, even though Mexico has less stringent screening measures than the United States; Canadians with a criminal record face another danger. There are many testimonies of people going to Mexico for a vacation or on business and stopping over in Houston or Los Angeles. When they lay-over in these American hubs they are questioned and sent back to Canada. This is a result of the Information Sharing Acts between Canada and the U.S. You can read more about these regulations in this article.
On March 23, 2011, “Bill C-42: An Act to Amend the Aeronautics Act” received Royal assent and became law in Canada. Prior to passage of the amendment, the Aeronautics Act already permitted airline operators to share passenger data with foreign agencies that govern an international flight’s destination. This new amendment extends this information sharing by allowing the airlines to share passenger data with US transportation authorities for any flight that enters US airspace, even if that flight never touches down on US soil.
So what does this mean for the traveling public in Canada? Practically speaking, it means carriers must comply with the US Secure Flight Program by providing Passenger Name Records (PNRs) to US authorities for passengers ticketed on flights originating in Canada that either enters US airspace or that have an emergency alternate landing site in the US. The PNRs are provided to US authorities 72 hours in advance of departure for the purpose of screening against the Terrorism Screening Center’s No Fly List prior to boarding. If US authorities deem that a passenger represents a security risk, that passenger will be subject to additional screening and may be denied boarding.
There have already been documented instances of travelers being denied boarding in Canada as a result of this new legislation. Unfortunately there is little that the traveling public can do in advance of departure to ensure they do not run afoul of the new policies. If a passenger has an existing redress number issued by the Department of Homeland Security then providing that information at the time of booking should prevent problems on the day of departure, but for travelers who have never had problems before (and who would therefore not have a redress number), there now exists this additional source of concern that their ability to travel
domestically or internationally is ultimately at the discretion of the US Government.
Information Canadian Criminal Record holders need to know if they want to travel to America.
Can I go to the U.S. if I have a Criminal Record or Police File?
- You CAN NOT enter the U.S. legally if you have a Criminal Record in Canada
- If you get checked at the U.S. border with a criminal record you will be denied entry.
- If you get denied entry you will be flagged every time you try and cross the border in the future
- You need to apply for a U.S. Entry Waiver, also known as a U.S. Travel Waiver.
- This document must be obtained from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, not the Canadian government
- A U.S. Entry Waiver application can be approved for either one, two or five years.
- If you have ever been denied entry to the U.S. you will need this document every time you enter the U.S.
- You can re-apply for the U.S. Entry Waiver after it expires
- There is a possibility of getting a longer waiver on subsequent applications (e.g. going from a 1 year waiver to a 2 year, or even a 5 year on the second approved application)
- A Standard U.S. Waiver can be obtained for $49.50 a month (over 10 months) and takes up to a year.
- A Premium U.S. Waiver can be obtained for $79.50 a month (over 10 months) and takes only 6 months.