Canadian Criminal Record Information at the USA Border
One of the major obstacles of a criminal record is the restriction it places on travel. If you don’t already know it is illegal in most cases for someone to cross the Canada / USA border if they have ever been convicted of a crime. It can also be a problem if you have simply been charged with a crime and then found not guilty in court.
What’s criminal record information is accessible?
United States border agents have access to a limited version of CPIC. We aren’t exactly sure what the limitation is because the American government does not show us their criminal record retrieval system but we know for certain they have access to all Canadian convictions that have not been pardoned.
In the case of non-convictions in which the person was found guilty in court (this sentence is called a discharge) the records will remain available to USA border agents for either 1 year or 3 years following the court appearance.
For not guilty results the American government should not have access although based on anecdotal information it appears that they do have access more often than not.
Making sure you’re okay to cross the border
If you have been convicted of a crime in Canada the only way to be 100% sure you are able to legally cross the US border is to have received an approved US entry waiver from the American government. The process of applying for a US waiver is long and tedious.
Some minor criminal records are consistently deemed “admissible” offences by US border agents. The most common is a DUI. Although a DUI is considered a serious matter in Canada it will not normally get you turned around when trying to cross the border. Minor theft charges like shoplifting are also commonly considered admissible. However, in our experience the exceptions are not always reliably applied so it is better make sure things are taken care of in Canada before crossing the border.
The loophole – Getting things in order before travelling
One way to make sure you are not going to have any trouble at the border is to make sure there is no information available for a border agent to find. Usually this involves processing a pardons Canada application but it can also be done through a purge and file destruction in cases where the person was not found convicted in court.
Essentially you should be ok when crossing the border if nothing is appearing on your criminal record. They way to verify this is to certify a set of fingerprints with the RCMP. If nothing is showing on your criminal record report you can be fairly confident that nothing is available to USA border agents.
You should keep in mind that if a USA border agent has viewed your criminal record prior to receiving a pardon or purge / file destruction then that information will remain available in USA criminal record systems and a clear criminal record in Canada will no longer help you.
If you still have questions about crossing the border consult the following pages or simply give us a call. We would be happy to answer your questions.
514.842.2411 x 227