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Is a United States (U.S.) Entry Waiver what I need?

A U.S. Entry Waiver is a document that you need if you have a conviction and want to go to the United States. In the past, you often could get into the United States after answering a few simple questions. But, more and more lately they are doing a criminal background check at the border crossing station.

If you have to travel to the U.S. and have yet to receive a pardon, you have to apply for a U.S. Entry Waiver. During that process, you’ll need to give information about your record to the U.S. Federal government.

Even if your criminal record is minor or from a long time ago, you can still be refused entry into the United States. If you enter without declaring your charges you can even be arrested or permanently banned from entering the United States.

Because the approval depends on the specific government agent, the better your application, the more likely you’ll receive a U.S. Entry waver.  Pardons Canada will help you with this process.

You’ll need to submit fingerprints to both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). Along with the basic application you’ll need to submit other documents to support the application.

Is it illegal to attempt to enter the U.S.

It is illegal to attempt to enter the U.S. with a criminal record unless you have been granted a U.S. Entry Waiver or have the right immigration status. Now you know!

In the past, you may have gotten lucky and passed through immigration by only having to answer a few questions. But, these days it’s more likely you will have to show your Identification and that they will search the criminal records database. If they find a record that matches your name, you will then have a CBP and FBI file. After that you’ll be denied entry to the U.S. and you’ll be required to apply for a waiver.

The first refusal

If you are refused entry for the first time, they can detain you and you definitely don’t want that to happen. If this happens it’s at this point that the FBI downloads a report from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC).

Refused multiple times

If you attempt to pass through customs the second time without a waiver you are considered to be knowingly breaking U.S. laws and your property and vehicle may be taken from you.

nexus interview questions

If you travel by bus you risk the whole bus being turned away. By air, your ticket will be voided and there will be no cancellation insurance.The experience of being hand-cuffed and detained by customs agents is not a pleasant one. So please avoid it!

Also, they already have all your information so it’s much easier to be caught the second time. The more you try to get into the U.S. without an entry waiver the less likely you’ll ever be able to get into the U.S.

Caught while in the United States illegally

If you’re caught in the U.S. without the right papers you’ll most likely be arrested and deported.

Property Seizure

If they seize your vehicle and property you’ll probably not be able to get it back.

Offences that prevent your entry to the U.S.

U.S. customs will turn away everyone with a fingerprint (FPS) number even if the charge was withdrawn. So, this means you need to destroy or seal your record before trying to go to the U.S.

You should apply for a U.S. Entry Waiver long before you attempt to enter the United States.

After you receive your pardon or destruction of records, your fingerprint (FPS) number no longer appears on the system that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) uses.

General information

If you need to go to the U.S. before your record is pardoned or destroyed, you could still apply but approval is not for sure. Pardons Canada will help you determine what’s best for your situation.

Time Frame for U.S. Entry Waivers

Applications take six to twelve months once you have all the right documents. Start your application early!

Working in the U.S. and Immigration

If you want to work or immigrate to the U.S. you’ll have to have a police clearance check done and if your record is still intact, you’ll most likely be refused entry.

Pardons Canada services, plans, and fees

Pardons Canada can handle all the details regarding your travel plans to the U.S. Give them the chance!

Plans and Fees

Standard: $700 includes

  •            Email and phone support
  •            Monthly payments possible
  •            Court fees (up to 2 convictions)
  •            Disbursement fees

Premium: $820 includes

  •            Email and phone support
  •            Monthly payments possible
  •            Court fees (for all convictions)
  •            Disbursement fees
  •            Follow ups
  •            Special attention for unique situation
  •            Personal support letter
  •            A file review by a lawyer if necessary

Frequently Asked Questions



1) I’m told I can’t lawfully enter the U.S. because of my criminal record. Is that true?

Yes, that is true. Unless you are a U.S. Citizen or have received permission via a U.S. Entry Waiver it is illegal to enter the United States with a record.

2) Do all convictions ban me from U.S.? 

Officially no. Offences like driving while impaired shouldn’t be an issue. But U.S. officials will stop you from entry with any criminal record.

3) Can I fly to another country via the U.S. with a criminal record, or do I still need a waiver?

You have to clear U.S. immigration regardless of where you are flying, if your connection flight is in the U.S. So, you have to have a waiver otherwise your flight ticket to the other country will be made void. You shouldn’t have connecting flights through the U.S. if you don’t’ have a U.S. entry waiver.

4) Does the United States know about my record?

When you enter the United States, U.S. officials can search the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) database. Once a criminal record is found it is downloaded to the U.S. CBP and FBI files and it is never removed!

5) I have to go to the U.S. before my pardon is granted. What are the potential outcomes of me trying to go there?

There is a high probability that your criminal record will be seen and you’ll not be allowed in.

6) I’ve gone to the U.S. many times with my criminal record. Why haven’t they caught me?

You’ve been very lucky! Ever since 2001 after the 911 terror attacks, the U.S. has increased security measures and the number of officials at each U.S. border crossing. Since 2009 all Canadians must present a passport to enter the U.S. Because of this the chance of your criminal record being exposed is much greater.

7) I was stopped once and refused entry to the U.S. but I really need to try again anyway. What could happen?

If you are caught again you’ll get much harsher treatment. They can seize your vehicle and possessions and you may not be able to get them back. You may also be detained and hand-cuffed. This isn’t a pleasant experience. Also, every time you try to cross and are caught you reduce the chance of ever being granted a U.S. entry waiver.

8) Is the U.S. border really becoming harder to cross?

Yes. Since 911 border rules and regulations have become much stricter. The FBI now is linked to the RCMP (CPIC) databases. Border agents can access your criminal record just by searching for your name on their computers. Without a U.S. Entry Waiver, you are undertaking a serious risk when you try to cross the border.

9) What is a waiver and why do I need it?

A U.S. Entry waiver is a document which allows you to enter the United States even though you have been convicted of a criminal offence.

10) Who decides whether I receive a waiver or not?

 The ARO (Admissibility Review Office) checks your application and has the power to grant you a waiver.

11) What’s involved in the application for U.S Entry Waiver?

The requirements for the application are very specific and change often. Its best to have counsellors on your side to prepare the application.

12) How long will it take to receive the U.S Entry Waiver?

It can take 6 -12 months just to prepare the documents needed for the application. Then the ARO can take another 6-12 months to approve the waiver. That’s why it’s smart to start the application process well before you travel to the United States.

13) How long does the waiver last for?

Waivers are granted from 6 months to 5 years. After that, you have to renew them. In rare cases depending on the severity of the crime you were convicted of; a waiver can be permanent.

14) Once I have that waiver can I go to the U.S. anytime I want?

With a waiver, you can travel freely between countries as long as the waiver is valid and you have your other travel documents with you. The waiver has to be carried with a passport.

15) If I have waiver is there a chance that I won’t be allowed into the U.S.?

 With a waiver, you can legally enter the United States. You can still be refused entry for other security issues at the crossing point.

16) Do I still need to apply for a waiver even though I haven’t been rejected at the border?

If you have to travel to the United States before your record is pardoned or destroyed you need to apply for an Entry Waiver to enter legally. Once a waiver application is submitted the FBI will access and copy the details of your record into their files and it is then never removed regardless of a Pardon/Record suspension. You’ll then need to have a U.S. Entry Waiver for the rest of your life. If you don’t have to go to the U.S. it’s better to wait for your pardon/record suspension. That way the U.S. officials will never know about your criminal record.

17) If there is a family type emergency, do I still need a waiver before going?

Some situations allow for a Port Parole. The U.S. Customs and Border protection agency will allow some people to obtain one while their Waiver is being processed. Port Parole is only ever granted for extremely urgent humanitarian reasons, to attend a funeral of close family member, and for medical emergencies.

18) What are the limitations of the U.S. Entry Waiver?

 They are only issued for a limited time period. So, you can enter the U.S. many times until the Waiver expires.

19) When can I apply for one?

 You can apply for a U.S. Entry Waiver at any time.

 20) What documents need to be attached to my waiver application?

 That depends on a few factors:

1) What were you charged with?

2) How long ago was the charge?

3) Why do you need to enter the United States? will analyze your situation and make sure the application and documents are properly arranged.

21) Can an application be denied?

 The Waiver application can be denied for lots of reasons. If the documents aren’t prepared properly or you show a lack of rehabilitation, and if you supply confusing supporting documents.

22) If I have a Canadian Pardon do I still need a U.S. Entry waiver?

If you’ve ever been denied entry at the United States border due to your record, that means that the U.S. officials have a permanent copy of your criminal record and they won’t recognize the Canadian pardon. They will not seal or erase the records. You’ll still need a U.S. Entry Waiver.

23) Can I immigrate or work in the United States with a criminal record?

You’ll need to go through a police clearance check. If you have a record it will show and your application will be negatively affected, and probably denied. Applying for a pardon first is Pardons Canada’s best recommendation.

24) Can assist with FAST cards, Work Visas, and Nexus Cards?

Pardons Canada maintains up to date information on what’s needed to obtain these documents.

25) Can I apply for a U.S. Entry Waiver on my own?

 You can. But it’s not easy to do on your own. It’s a difficult and long process and the rules change often.

Here’s another video from Andrew at which you may find useful:


And here are a few useful links:

Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC)

Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)

Parole Board of Canada (PBC)

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)

United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP)