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Once they have put the incident behind themselves many people don’t think about how a criminal record could affect their ability to travel, take an international job posting or move to a new country. Canadians with criminal records may find it difficult or impossible to enter the U.S.A., depending on the crime they committed, and if they are eligible for a Canadian pardon. However, there are some things that can be done if a person who is likely to be denied entry wants to come to the U.S.
Crimes That Matter
Theoretically, only certain crimes warrant a refusal of entry to the U.S. However, some sources say that because U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents have some choice in who they allow through, anyone with a criminal record is at risk of being denied entry. This may include people who were acquitted or had charges dropped if the only thing that is seen is the presence of the file.
Applying for a Waiver
Canadians who believe they would be denied entry to the U.S. (or have been denied entry) can apply for a temporary waiver of inadmissibility. This process can take up to a year and costs $565 regardless of the result. The appropriate form I-192 can be found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration website.
People with records who want to enter the U.S. but need a visa should discuss the situation with someone from their local American consulate. A consular officer can recommend a waiver which is the first step in the process. Once an officer recommends a waiver the person must apply for it at either a border crossing or a Preclearance office in Canada.
A basic list of documents required exists but individuals should check with their local Preclearance office to see which specific documents they might need in addition to the list. Documents usually required include:
- A Form I-192, completed and signed original (no copies allowed)
- A U.S. Fingerprint chart FD-258, to be completed later
- A completed Form G-325
- A copy of your official police record
- A copy of any police record you have in any other nation
- Evidence of your Canadian citizenship
- A statement of purpose regarding your reason for entering the U.S.
- A copy of the official court record for every crime you have ever been indicted of
- A signed statement in your own words explaining the circumstances of your crimes and any rehabilitation you have completed (restitution, counseling, community service, etc)
Except for in the case of certain crimes most Canadians can have their criminal records destroyed and expunged after a period of time ranging from 5 months to 10 years. However, the way a Canadian pardon works with U.S. Border Patrol is a bit tricky. If a person has never tried to enter the U.S. before and gets a pardon, they should be fine. It is best to ensure that your criminal record has been expunged before attempting to enter the U.S. in this case, though.
The second scenario occurs when a person has been denied entry to the U.S. at least once before. At this point, they may only enter via the U.S. waiver process. This is because even if their record is deleted in Canada it remains in U.S. computer systems and the U.S. does not recognize Canadian pardons.
Entry into the U.S. is regulated by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Basic information for Canadians with criminal records seeking entry into the U.S. can be found, including ports of entry that process waivers and the locations of preclearance facilities in Canada.