Can a criminal record impede travel to the U.S.?

If you have a criminal record in Canada, regardless of the charge, it is illegal for you to enter the United States, whether by land, sea or air. Exceptions to this rule are if you have certain immigration status or if you have gone through the necessary channels to obtain a document known as a U.S. Entry Waiver.

It’s tempting to think “Oh, I’ll never be caught. I’ve crossed the border lots of times and haven’t had any issues, but the truth of the matter is if you’ve gotten through INS without incident you have been very lucky. Someday, that luck will run out and you will find yourself in lots of trouble.

Lachine Canal - Quebec, Canada - 16
Lachine Canal – Quebec, Canada

Once you have been discovered attempting to cross the border with a Canadian criminal record your criminal record then gets downloaded into the American system, effectively giving you a file with the INS and the FBI. The first time you are stopped at the border, you will likely be detained for a short time. Entry into the U.S. will be denied, and you will be informed that if you wish to enter the States you will need to apply for and successfully obtain an entry waiver. Further, you may be subjected to fingerprinting, photos, and questioning.

If you ignore the advice of the INS worker and attempt to gain entry subsequent times after the first time you are stopped, things will get much worse for you. At this point, you are knowingly and intentionally breaking American immigration laws. Because of that, immigration officers are now within their rights to seize your property, including your vehicle. In addition, if you are found to be attempting to gain unlawful entry into the United States by bus, the whole bus can be denied entry and turned back into Canada. If you are travelling by air, your airline ticket will be rendered void. You will be detained once again, this time potentially in handcuffs. That can be not only embarrassing but also emotionally draining.

It’s important to know that it is much easier to be caught crossing illegally after the first time you are caught, as now you have a file in the American system. Every time your ID is scanned into the U.S. system your file information will come up and red flags will be raised instantly. Also, it’s important to know that once you have been denied entry multiple times, you are less likely to be granted a n entry waiver once you do apply. It’s much better to go through the proper channels in the first place.

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If you want more information about obtain an entry waiver or pardon Canada residents, contact an expert in the matter to ensure you are going through the right channels and taking all of the necessary steps. If you have a criminal record in Canada, it is possible to travel to the U.S., but you will need the proper documentation. Attempting to fly under the radar will eventually result in you being caught and the situation will be much worse for you than it otherwise would have been.


I’m offering public relations, communications and image counseling in everyday life and I have a PR agency – PRwave INTERNATIONAL. I am passionate about reading, blogging (I also have a blog in Romanian) and traveling. Follow me on Twitter - @violetaloredana (Romanian) and @TravelMoments.

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