How Can Canadian with a Criminal Record Enter the USA

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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 Pre-clearance office in Canada.

A basic list of documents required exists but individuals should check with their local Pre-clearance 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)

Canadian Pardons

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.

More Information

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 pre-clearance facilities in Canada.

Image (c) ChrisHConnolly

Join the Conversation

  1. Yeah… we don’t like you criminal Canadians down here in the civilized USA.

    Seriously, though, Canada is just as bad.. I know people who have been arrested for minor things like DUI in the USA that get rejected at the CDN border. There is a process for Canada but I’ve heard it’s not as “easy” as you’ve described.

    Now, weirdly, in all the time I’ve been traveling, even between Canada and the US, I’ve never been asked if I’m a criminal. I guess the US and Canada share criminal databases…

    1. It’s best to get a pardon first, then enter the US or Canada. I’ve been through back and forth dozens of times with no trouble. I think it’s when you appear suspicious to them that they will perhaps perform a check. Again, pardon first, then try to enter. As it says above, you should be fine.

      1. I was surprised that I was sent back to Canada while trying to go to the states for a vacation. I had a canadian pardon. It was from infractions of over 10 years ago for pot. They told me that my Canadian pardon does not allow me in the U. S. So I hired pardon service Canada to help with the process of applying for a U. S. Waiver and I just got a letter from the U. S., saying that I had been accepted but only for a year. So I contacted pardon service Canada and explained my disipioment about the waiver being only good for a year. They said it was normal for the first time and if I applied through them again for the next waiver, before this one expires. I would get a maximum 5 years waiver. They said I would get $200 off there fee if I did it through them again. Problem is that it’s still close to $800 for there fee and over $600 Canadian for the waiver at the border going to the U. S. And I have to do with the forms again. Also have to go get fingerprinted at a local police station again. Plus get fingerprinted again at the border. Then wait 6 to ten months to see if I get a U. S. Waiver again. This company told me that if I can let this waiver expire before getting a new one that I would only be accepted for one year again. Instead of 5 years. I don’t know if I will be traveling to the states yet.

        1. Do the work yourself and pay only the administrative costs. I did it myself and was approved. The information you need for the process is clearly indicated and available on the pardon website.

          Because pot was involved, get the waiver yourself. You don’t need a service to profit even more off a mistake from the past. You can do it.!

        2. Hi Emery,

          I also need a pardon, may you please guide me and tell me how did you exactly apply for a pardon? Who did you apply through and some details of the process. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

          1. Doug Hibberd says:

            Go to Pardons Canada

          2. Canadian pardons are not recognized in the USA. Don’t waste your time.

          3. I just received my pardon a month ago and payed a service and paying was completely unnecessary it’s a simple form that comes with instructions

          4. okay, Im 53 and live in Van BC my last trouble was in 2008-2012, I plead guilty in mid may 23 2012, not after may 31 to poss, ppt and trafficking in heroin and coke. I’ve been in a online relationship with a woman who is serving a prison sentence in Cal.. I know it sounds weird but I truly love Erika. I want to be able to pick her up when she gets out which isnt for a bit yet. Odd because had we not met by chance I most likely wouldn’t be putting much to get my life back on track. I’ve never attempted to cross any border so they have no idea who I am and I’d NEVER EVER admit to border that Id had a record if they asked me, id deny it. I wont let anything stand in my way of Erika. Whats the cost of the pardon and how long does it take??

        3. Peter Gorrie says:

          Shouldn’t have said you have a pardon and they let you in

      2. Hi Cory!! May you please help me and guide me as to how I can apply for a pardon as well. I really need one since I am not being able to travel. Any help will be appreciated.

      3. Doug Hibberd says:

        I’ve had my pardon for 10 years. I have travelled back & forth several times. The last time I traveled I was denied entrance. I now have to get a Waiver to enter the US. Never think just having a pardon works because it doesn’t.

    2. DUI is NOT A MINOR OFFENCE

  2. Stanley J Steier says:

    Hello I had a DUI in 1988 do I need a pardon and if so How do I get one. I live in Alberta Canada. thankyou

  3. please help says:

    Hello my friend has never been to the states and wants to travel some day but her record has an AGGRAVATED assault charge if she gets a pardon can she fly to the states she has never been denied yet as she hasn’t been in he states yet

  4. I am thankful I got the chance to read on canadian pardon. Its been awhile already that I am searching for best source.

    1. Hi Sandra,

      I too need to apply for a Canadian pardon. May you please guide me and give me some ideas on how I can go about. How long does this process take and who did you apply through for the pardon?
      Any help will be very appreciated. I will be very grateful to you.

  5. Jon Dergic says:

    Great post. The waiver cost is now $585 US and can take over a year to get. The process is also pretty simple and you can complete the application yourself.

  6. I had 2 common assault from 1999 and got a pardon 9 years ago. I have never had any problems driving across. But was wanting to fly with my family to Disney this feb. do you think I will be fine without a waiver? Any helpful info for me?

    1. Just wondering have you been asked at the border for your pardon or asked if you have a record?

  7. I was pardoned in early 1990s for a B&E from 1978. Will this show up at the border… As the last time I was at a border crossing was 1988. I had no problem getting into the states it was getting back into CANADA! The officer told me I should not be crossing the border. Hence I applied for my Pardon an recieved it.
    Since then,,, my daughter an I got into a huge argument. We had to go to court an we both had a peace bond to stay away from one another for a year. Which we did , without hesitation. So will this interfere with travelling into the States. I was told all charges were dropped because we agreed to the peace bond

    1. Hi Shelly!

      I need a pardon as well. May you please guide me and give me the details about how did you get your pardon? How did you apply? Any help will be very appreciated.

    2. I also went to court and agreed to a peace bond. I was charged with assault x 2 and so was the other person. We both agreed to a peace bond. This was ok because we didn’t know each other. My record shows up with assualt x 2. It said there would be no conviction if we agreed to the peace bond. It still shows up. Assault x 2.

  8. My question is once i have my pardon,and the officer asks me if i have a criminal record at the boarder what do i tell him.

    1. Hi Vince,

      I too need to apply for a Canadian pardon. May you please guide me and give me some ideas on how I can go about. How long does this process take and who did you apply through for the Canadian pardon?
      Any help will be very appreciated. I will be very grateful to you.

    2. It doesn’t matter if you receive your Canadian Pardon, the USA will always consider you a criminal. Your criminal record is in their data base forever. One of Justin Trudeau’s campaign promise, was to make Canadian travelers to the USA, easier once they have received their Pardon. Nothing has ever been done. If you are going to retain a Lawyer to help you, make sure he/she is a Canadian. Mine was an American working in Toronto at a large firm and as long as he got his money up front, that was it….he had no back bone and didn’t care at all about me or my family. It was just about the money. Good luck and always investigate and do your own research.

    3. I would like the answer to this also.
      I asked pardons Canada and they said that I needed to be honest at the border.
      What’s the point in getting a file destruction?

      1. If you’ve never been to the USA and now have a Canadian pardon, do not tell them you have a record, as they cannot access it once you have your pardon. That’s my understanding

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  10. Border guards have all the power.
    Doesn’t matter what your lawyer may tell you.
    I was denied entrance because I had my fiancé therapist card in my wallet. This therapist delt with sexual assault. We both tried telling the guard that it was her therapist, but because it was in my wallet he didn’t believe us. My fiancé is from Wisconsin. Why would I see a therapist in Wisconsin? This is why I was denied entrance into the USA. The border guards are not lawyers, they can deny you entrance if they don’t like how you look. Now I have to get a Waiver which could take a year. A border guard that has put a major strain on me & my fiancées relationship all because of not believing us & having a huge ego. I think border guards need to be trained better ( just my opinion) .

  11. Hello, I had a common law peace bond for an alleged assault 266 (Not Domestic) that I fulfilled and it expired on December 2nd 2016. I have made a request with TPS for destruction of my photos and fingerprints in early December 2016. I did receive a letter in the mail confirming that TPS have received my request and I will hear back from them once the process is complete. I just had some follow up questions that perhaps you could help me with. Is there any timeline on how long this could take? Now that The Common Law Peace Bond has expired am I ok to travel to the USA i.e it should it not be appearing on the National Repository of Criminal Records maintained by the RCMP ? Or do I need to wait until this process is completed to avoid problems. This would be the only thing of concern to me that may or not be on my Criminal Record. Prior to having this problem I had a criminal record check in 2007 for an employment opportunity which was clean and I have travelled to and from The USA on multiple occasions since then although I have refrained from travelling to The USA since I was charged and while The Peace Bond was in effect. This Peace Bond is the only trouble I have had since that check. Would the Peace Bond be automatically removed after it has expired on the National Repository of Criminal Records maintained by the RCMP? I am concerned as I am hoping to make travel plans to The US.

    Respectfully,

    1. Did u able to travel to United States after peace bond expired

  12. I have made 2 attempts to get my I-192 Waiver, once on my own, the 2nd through a Law Firm in Toronto. The first time the Doctor from the Panel of Physicians never sent in his paperwork to the ARO. I was Denied. The 2nd time I spent $5k on a Lawyer, that was a waste of money. I did more then my Lawyer, They will just write a letter on your behalf, take all your information, package it up and tell you to submit it. That’s it!! It took 203 days just to get an appointment with a Doctor from the Panels of Physicians again. I was Denied a 2nd time due to the time violation of 87 days.
    I have spent over $10k, in my time and fees. I finally had enough. I have now filed a official complaint against the 2 Doctors from the Panel of Physicians to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. They are now under investigation. If you have been Denied because of delays from the Panel. You need to report it to the CPSO. They are taking this very seriously.
    My charge was over 25 years ago, and I received my Pardon 18 years ago. Good luck to those working on your I-192.

  13. Steve Creek says:

    I have made 2 attempts to get my I-192 Waiver, once on my own, the 2nd through a Law Firm in Toronto. The first time the Doctor from the Panel of Physicians never sent in his paperwork to the ARO. I was Denied. The 2nd time I spent $5k on a Lawyer, that was a waste of money. I did more then my Lawyer, They will just write a letter on your behalf, take all your information, package it up and tell you to submit it. That’s it!! It took 203 days just to get an appointment with a Doctor from the Panels of Physicians again. I was Denied a 2nd time due to the time violation of 87 days.
    I have spent over $10k, in my time and fees. I finally had enough. I have now filed a official complaint against the 2 Doctors from the Panel of Physicians to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. They are now under investigation. If you have been Denied because of delays from the Panel. You need to report it to the CPSO. They are taking this very seriously.
    My charge was over 25 years ago, and I received my Pardon 18 years ago. Good luck to those working on your I-192.

  14. I think if your have a Canadian Pardon and committed no
    criminal activity in the US, then let the good Canadian peopleTravel,
    Shop, and enjoy the trip in the US. Respect Canadian people who have
    made a mistake in there life time because, we are all Human and not criminals .

  15. I got my criminal record back in 1999 I tried to cross the border in 2002 and 2004 and got denied since then I have gotten a pardon I have not tried to cross the border since do you think I should get a waiver or try and cross first? Will my criminal record still be in their system?

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  17. I received criminal charges 35 years ago.
    I was a youth and served three months. Me not knowing any better after years after I commutted across into the USA border after serving my three months and not getting a Canadian pardon didn’t know any better and of course I was marked as a criminal in the USA.

    Guess I learned the hard way.
    I did later on applied for a Canadian full pardon and yes I had been granted full pardon.

    Was years later I made arrangements on holidays into the USA booked events and rooms for my stay.

    Once I made into the USA they had told me they didn’t recognize pardons and was turned around.
    Now I’m marked like a terrorist for peat sacks.

    You’d think once a person has done wrong and fixed the past as well as lived years after without criminal aligations this wouldn’t be an issue any longer.

    Now having a full pardon granted years ago then having to deal with getting a waiver countiuosly is ridiculous.

    I was young as we all were and did stupid things and to have to relive our past over and over again seems very childish
    Guess I’ll live my life as a proud Canadian no problem.

  18. I got my Pardon 3 years ago finally for a DUI. I unfortunately went thru Pardons Canada paying them 5??.00. A few years later, I still had to pay the Canadian Government the same. That’s when I realized I could have done this myself and save the Pardon Canada charge. Make sure you go through the the Canadian Government site for the Application and NOT Pardons Canada.

  19. Has any of you traveled to the USA with a criminal record, and stopped by CBP and still granted to the USA?

  20. Tony Palone says:

    If you received a pardon before entering the USA, the CBP officers CANNOT see your record, NOR WILL THEY KNOW YOU HAVE A PARDON.

    I confirmed this directly with the Staff Sergeant the RCMP’s Pardon and Purge office in Ottawa. He flatly told me in no uncertain terms: “We don’t give them that information, they (CPB) absolutely cannot see a pardoned record.”

    As an aside, the S/Sgt. confirmed my pardon was active because he saw NOTHING on CPIC at all using my name and d.o.b. To be honest, I was kind of surprised he did this via telephone, considering I could have been anyone calling, but I was honest with him at the beginning of our conversation. I admitted what my conviction was and that I was pardoned. He was pretty cool for a cop.

    So, to reiterate, if you have never been turned away by USA border and you get a pardon, they will NEVER know you have one. If they ask about record or pardon, just say “no”

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