Travel to the United States With a Criminal Record

Travelling to the United States With a Criminal Record

These Two Women Probably Didn’t Get Stopped at the Border.

It’s that time of year again. The phones will start ringing as soon as the holidays have passed and a lot of those calls will be from people who were stopped, detained and/or turned away at the border. I will hear the same story over and over and it will center on the same theme. You cannot travel to the USA with a criminal record. You now need a US entry waiver.

A lot of these people will have been travelling to the USA with family in tow, unaware that an old criminal record will prevent them from taking the kids to Disneyland or wherever else the family travel plans originally intended them to be.

Since the law says that you cannot travel to the USA with a criminal record the American border guards are completely within their rights and their duties as a border guard to refuse the entire family entry to the country. It may seem heartless and, frankly, it is in many cases but the law is the law and the US border guards are not there to make family travel plans any easier. They are there to make sure that only admissible persons are permitted to enter the USA.

So let’s be clear on something. You cannot travel to the USA with a criminal record and for the most part it does not matter what nature of the offence was. The Department of Homeland Security website includes a long list of summary offences that it says are not a problem, but in our experience this list does not correspond to reality.

In reality the only criminal record that the border guards will consistently let you travel to the USA with is a single DUI conviction. Everything else is fair game. And keep in mind we do have many clients who were not allowed to travel to the USA because of a DUI charge alone so there is no guarantee.

If you have ever been arrested the only way to be sure you are not at risk when travelling to the USA is to be in possession of a USA entry waiver. Alternatively you can just make sure there is no criminal record on file but this is not exactly in accordance with American law.

If you have questions about how to travel to the USA with a criminal record then I suggest you get in touch with us at the National Pardon Centre. I promise we are going to give you accurate, up to date information that is in your best interest.

If you need a waiver to travel to the USA give us a call because a team you can trust to do things right goes a long way.

And finally I would like to send a big Happy new year to everyone. Stay safe and out of trouble.

Michael Ashby

1-866-242-2411 x 227




Comments (14)
Sheena / January 15, 2013

How long does the waiver take to get?

Michael Ashby / January 15, 2013

Approximately 8 – 12 months. If you would like to give me a call I can be reached at 866.242.2411 x 227

Kind regards,


Sarah / February 5, 2013

If I was not convicted and there were no fingerprints taken for a summary charge that was discharged, can I still be stopped at the border? I’m so worried about this.

Michael Ashby / February 6, 2013

Hi Sarah,

Yes you can still be stopped at the border. You want to make sure nothing is showing on cpic.


tom / March 29, 2013

I’m not part of nationalpardon, but I think it is well worth it. I put every dime that I had back in the day to get the pardon and everything worked out fine. I highly advise getting a pardon/suspension as soon as possible.

Greg / February 3, 2014

I just tried to transit through the USA enroute to Mexico, Ive never been there prior to getting my Pardon except as a kid( before I got in trouble ).
I was informed by this company that i got the pardon and by the RCMP that I would be safe to tarvel since my CPIC is clean.
Not a chance, sent to secondary and they pulled my FPS no. Denied. Had to travel direct.
Please tell your clients to get a waiver for US travel. They have access to your history thanks to our amazing government thats given them ( the US ) access to your life.
How can the US see more than the RCMP?
Granted if you have been denied prior they will have your info entered, but I have not, thanks Harper.

Michael Ashby / February 3, 2014

Hi Greg,

Are you sure that company got you your pardon or that the border guard didn’t bluff you at the time?

Anyway you’re right. The only guarantee when crossing the border is to have a US Waiver.


Ryan / March 7, 2014

Hi Michael,

Great article. I have a question about the US CBP’s access to CPIC. I have heard rumours that the US downloads CPIC data, thus meaning that they would be aware of a criminal record even if it was pardoned and removed from CPIC. Does the US do this, or do they only have access to the most current data on CPIC (meaning that the Canada-US security agreement does not allow them to download Canadians’ criminal record data permanently)?

Hopefully, this makes sense.


Michael Ashby / March 7, 2014

Hi Ryan,

It’s true the US can download our CPIC records but only if they have accessed specific entiries with a search. They do not just randomly download the entire database. So stay away from the border until the pardon is done and you should be fine.

Kind regards,


Elaine / December 29, 2014

Hi Michael,

My husband was granted a pardon in May, and we just did a background/record check. It came up clean. He has never attempted to cross the US border while he had it. I am paranoid-are we ok to cross the border? Cleary he doesn’t flag anything in cpic, but I’m worried we shold also do a fingerprint purge to be safe. Is that necessary or was it taken care of with the pardon? Im just trying to be sure when we finally do cross the border no random thing will pop up-like through provincially based conviction records. I am cross eyed from trying to get a straight answer, we’ve been through so much, waiting to get the pardon before we drive or fly through the states, I just don’t want it messed up now! Thank you for any info you can provide. E

Michael Ashby / December 30, 2014

HI Elaine,

You should be fine. A fingerprint purge would do nothing additional at this point since all those procedures are a part of the pardon process.

Kind regards,


Elaine / January 5, 2015

Thank you so much Michael, I appreciate you taking the time to respond. Fingers crossed!

Michael Ashby / January 12, 2015

My pleasure. All the best.

rena / February 2, 2015

What if you do NOT have a criminal record and you fly all the time down to the states from Canada and then you are stopped and told you can’t go across. This has just happened in Kelowna today and the border athorities there don’t know why and state this has never happened before. Nothing is showing as to why the reason is to not allowing my sisters fiancee to cross. They are devastated as they had a package plan through west jet.


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