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Pardons vs. Waivers

Canadians with criminal records, or even some who have been finger printed but never convicted, may see themselves rejected when they tried to cross the US border.

The US department of immigration is dramatically increasing the control policy in the US borders; the risks of detention, deportation, and even incarceration have never been higher.

Due to the high volume of traffic between Canada and the U.S., there is often a false sense of security in citizens of both countries, that the chances of being caught are high due to the new control policy. Then, the results of being caught in the U.S. or trying to enter the U.S. with an undeclared criminal record can be severe and should not be ignored.

Once the Pardon is granted the person’s criminal record is sealed which means that it will not show up in the Canadian databases typically searched by law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border. However, the criminal record is not erased and can be disclosed or re-instated in the appropriate circumstances.

In terms of crossing the border, a Canadian Pardon has no value because it has no effect on records kept in the United States. Therefore if your criminal record has been entered into the U.S. system for any reason you may still be refused entry into the U.S. based on that criminal record even though the record has been sealed in Canada.
To gain legal entry into the U.S. with a Canadian criminal record it is therefore advisable to apply for a U.S. Travel Waiver.

In conclusion, the Canada/U.S. border is increasingly becoming more of a hurdle than a turnstile. Canadians with criminal records should spend some time investigating their options and the possible repercussions of ignoring the risks.