Is it safer to cross the border by land or air? This is a question I’m frequently asked by would be travellers who have a criminal record but don’t want to process a United States entry waiver. What they mean by “safer” is crossing comes with a better chance of not getting caught.
The reality is that it doesn’t matter. If you have a criminal record you will most likely require a United States entry waiver in order to cross the border legally. There are some exceptions but generally speaking a criminal record will get your turned around at the border, or worse.
Still I talk to a lot of people who are convinced that travelling by land will make it much easier to “sneak” in. This is because many people cross the border with a criminal record for years without having any trouble.
While I think it’s safe to say that security is heightened at the airport it’s not safe to say that if you cross at a land border you will not have trouble. The reality is that if you have a criminal record you need to make sure on of the following criteria apply to you:
- Your criminal record is NOT an admissible offence.
- You are in possession of a valid United States entry waiver
- Your criminal record is sealed (ie you received a pardon) and is not accessible by American border guards.
If you don’t fit one of the above criteria you are at risk of refusal when trying to enter the United States. Depending on the reason you need to travel south of the border this could end up being a very costly mistake. For example, if you have been sent down south for work purposes there is a very real risk of losing your job if you are deemed inadmissible at the border. If nothing else the incident will reveal to your employer that you have a criminal record.
It’s best to be sure. Get your pardon or get your United States entry waiver or both. Once those steps are complete you can travel freely without worrying, either by land or by air.