Quick trips across the U.S. border, or winter vacations in the southern states, are all taken for granted by Canadians across the country. But if you happen to have a criminal record, you’ll be surprised to find out that you might be prevented from entering the U.S.A. at any given time. And, unless you check with U.S. Customs and Border Protection first, you might only find out that you won’t be allowed to enter after you arrive at a border crossing.
Even criminal record holders who managed to get into the U.S. previously are not guaranteed to be allowed to enter every time they try. In the past, many Canadian Pardons were allowed into the U.S. without background checks. But newer technologies and systems, along with increased security concerns following 9/11, mean tighter security is now in place at border stations all along the Canada/U.S. border.
Being denied access can be more than just an inconvenience. Depending on their background and criminal record, travelers may be detained, arrested and prosecuted. Border officials can also seize property and belongings, including vehicles and luggage.
But even if your criminal record was for a relatively minor offence, committed a long time ago, it can still create problems for you at the border. Long forgotten criminal records for simple summary offences can show up on a background check at the border and be used by customs officials as grounds to deny entry. And if you are allowed entry by one customs agent who knows you have a criminal record, it doesn’t mean that every agent will let you cross the border. Whether or not you are allowed to enter the U.S. is entirely up to the each individual border agent.
The only way for anyone with a criminal record to ensure that their record will not prevent them from entering the U.S. is to apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for advance admissibility using form I-192, also known as a U.S. Entry waiver or waiver.
The entire Waiver application can take up to 12 months and may require you to provide court documents, police records, drug test results and even personal financial information. So the sooner you begin the process, the sooner you can enjoy worry-free travel to the United States.
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