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US Entry Waivers: What You Need to Know

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When you are planning on crossing the border from Canada to the United States, it is important to make sure you have all of your records, information, and documents in order and up to date.  This is especially important to anyone who has any sort of police or criminal record and plans on travelling to the US. A person with a criminal record cannot legally enter the US unless that person has Native or First Nations status, is a US citizen, or has attained advanced permission from US immigration – that is, attained a US Entry Waiver.

What the US Officials Know

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US officials have access to the records of anyone attempting to enter the United States.  Upon request, the RCMP makes criminal records available to US officials via download, and the US version of that file is never erased.

What Few Offenses Do Not Prevent Travel

Not all offenses on a record will prevent US immigration from allowing you to pass the border.  If an offence is not considered by the US law to be a crime of moral turpitude, (for example, driving while under the influence) it should not be a problem.

What Happens When People Try Again After Being Denied Entry into the US

Beyond simply being turned away, a second attempt at passing through the border without changing the contents of your record can result in much harsher treatment.  Under the US Immigration Act, officers present at the border have permission to take the vehicle you are travelling in – if you are in a communal vehicle like a bus, you will be removed from the vehicle and sent back into Canada, without being able to collect on any cancellation insurance you might have.

If you attempt to enter the US a third or fourth time, you may be detained.

It is far more likely that your record will come up on the second attempt, because the immigration office will already have your records on hand from the first time you tried to enter the country.  Attempting to cross the border after having been refused entry greatly diminishes the likelihood of being granted a US Entry Waiver.

Do you Need a Waiver if you Have Been Pardoned?

A Canadian Criminal Pardon will only seal your criminal record from public visibility in Canada. U.S. officials will continue to have access to the record. If you have an existing criminal record or a record that has been Pardoned, you will need a U.S. Entry waiver to travel freely to the United States.

What Applying for a US Entry Waiver Entails

An application for a US entry waiver must be sent to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the United States.  This application must abide by the DHS’s specific and often-changing requirements – it is best to find counsel when searching for these requirements.  Preparing and gathering all the necessary information for a US Entry Waiver can take from three to ten months, and then the DHS can take anywhere from 5 to 10 months to review your application. As such, it is a good idea to start your US Entry Waiver process long before you would like to cross the border.

It is important to be mindful of what is necessary to travel to the United States to avoid complications.  For a full consultation on how to legally and safely cross the border into the United States, contact Pardon Applications of Canada.