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.