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A Guide to Vacations and Traveling With a Criminal Record

Canadian citizens traveling to the U.S. who have a criminal record should know that they may be ineligible to enter the U.S. If that is the case, they will need to apply for a waiver of ineligibility. Instructions: Fill out Form I-192 , which is a form asking advance permission to enter the U.S. Do understand that not all criminal convictions result in an ineligibility to enter the U.S.; therefore, before traveling to the U.S., Canadians should contact the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or Customs and Border Protection.

Traveling Without Detection

Any Canadian with a criminal conviction who travels to the U.S. without an approved waiver, or avoids entry procedures and laws by either state, is taking a great risk, as an undeclared criminal record can result in severe consequences. If caught traveling without detection, a Canadian may be subject to deportation, which permanently barres the individual and family members from returning to the U.S. If this happens, the individual(s) will be arrested, detained, and deported. Punishment may also include imprisonment. In the past, there was not much concern for Canadian citizens traveling to the U.S., but in response to worldwide terrorist threats and freed criminals, Canadians that travel to the U.S. face tighter security measures (e.g., increase in border security).

First Entry Refusal

Customs and Border Protection (DHS/CBP) helps detect Canadian citizens with a criminal background trying to enter the U.S. illegally, without permission, or without a waiver (filling out Form I-192 or Form I-212). US border guards will (and have the right to) refuse entry to anyone for any criminal record. For first entry refusals, submit a U.S. Travel Waiver. Also, ensure to present a valid Canadian passport too.

Subsequent Entry Refusals

For subsequent entry refusals, Canadian citizens should receive the assistance from Canada Pardon Services or contact the National Pardon Centre. Alternatively, they should seek the help of a lawyer who can help with Cross-Border Issues and Inadmissibility. Whomever the Canadian turns to, he/she must plead a case; that is, ensure someone mentions or somewhere shows that the conditions that rendered the traveler executable have been corrected. This, will likely help convince to U.S. officials to accept the individual's entry to the United States. Also, Canadians are often refused in error or because they do not have proof of their admissibility; so again, seeking expert advice and assistance will likely be the turning point.

Property Seizure

Under U.S. immigration law, immigration officers are allowed to seize property. Be aware, if a Canadian is caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally, U.S. authorities can confiscate their property; this also includes the possible seizure of their vehicle. Refer to the link below regarding property unsuitable for transport. Trained dogs are typically used at border checkpoints to identify vehicles attempting to transport illegal substances; if detected, the offender should expect to be detained at the border with the possibility of an arrest or fine. Travelers should also be aware of any limit on items when crossing the border; for example, there is a quantitative limit on the number of Cuban cigars that may be transported across the U.S.-Canadian border due to the U.S. trade restrictions with Cuba.

Complete Inadmissibility Offenses

According to immigration laws, Canadians wishing to enter the U.S. may be inadmissible based on four reasons:

  1. Immigrant Intent
  2. Unlawful Presence
  3. Immigration Violations
  4. Criminal Grounds

Also, Canadians are also not admissible into the U.S. if they have been convicted for a crime of moral turpitude while under the age of 18, or if such a crime was committed within 5 years of the date of the application for admission into the U.S. Also, certain offenses like those involving a crime of moral turpitude, under Canadian law, are often treated by the court as a summary conviction; that is, imprisonment of six months. Furthermore, a conditional discharge for an indictable offense (like a drug related offense) renders the person inadmissible, and denies the chance obtaining a waiver.

General Information On U.S. Entry Waivers

A Canadian may be eligible for a U.S. entry waiver, if he/she is not a risk to society, if the criminal conviction is seen as being not a serious offense, or depending on the reason or purpose of the visit. As previously mentioned, Canadian citizens with a criminal record, regardless of the offense, should apply for a U.S. Travel Waiver. The waiver is issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Waiting For Your Entry Waiver To Arrive

Canadians must wait approximately 6 months for the processing a waiver. That goes for each waiver: the Waiver of Inadmissibility (Form I-601), to apply for a Waiver of Ineligibility (Form I-192), and/ or Reapply for Admission into the U.S. After Deportation (Form I-212).

Immigration To U.S.

Canadians wishing to immigrate to the U.S. should immediately apply for a visa, which gives the holder the right to apply for entry into the U.S. Then, they should try to obtain a Green Card; as this gives an immigrant a lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. Lastly, they might consider U.S. Citizenship; which provides the maximum immigration rights available in the U.S. More information about how-to immigrate to the U.S. is available at, or at any U.S. Consular Service in Canada. Additionally, Canadians can seek assistance from the Immigration and Naturalization service (INS), now known as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Work Authorization

To obtain work authorization in the U.S., Canadians must have a work visa or permit, unless they have a Green Card, or become a citizen of the U.S. The TN (Trade NAFTA) permit, which is available for Canadians, is the quickest and easiest of the work permits. Also available are temporary work permits, like: the H1B, the L1 and the E. Asking for the L1 permit, for example, is valid for up to three years at a time. Not all work permits are the same; for example, the TN permit can be obtained at the U.S. border instead of having to be submitted by mail. Therefore, Canadians must know what work permit is appropriate for them or their condition.

Helpful Links:

Prohibited/Restricted Items: A list and information pertaining to the items that may be flagged and deemed unsuitable for transport across U.S. borders.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada - Provides a Travel Report for United States.

U.S. Consular Services in Canada - Covers Criminal Ineligibility for a Visa or Entry into the United States.

Form I-192 - A downloadable version of the I-192 form.

Canada Pardon Services - Provides assistance to any person with Canadian criminal records to help obtain the Canadian Pardon and the U.S. Entry Restriction Waivers.

Canadian Criminal Law - Website regarding Canadian Criminal Laws and Offenses.

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