What is a US entry waiver application?
Many Canadian citizens do not realize they are not legally permitted to cross the United States border. But if you have a criminal record, medical condition, have overstayed your welcome, and/or were deported, you are likely inadmissible. The solution to this restriction is a waiver application submitted to the Department of Homeland Security.
Furthermore, many people cross the border for years before being denied entry which just makes the situation more confusing. Even criminal records dating back more than 20 years can provide a border agent with the justification needed to refuse your entry request. This can be very problematic since so many lives are dependent on gaining entry to the United States.
Whether you travel for reasons involving work, family, or recreation, it is extremely frustrating to have the freedom to travel suddenly taken away. But regardless of why you were refused entry to the United States, or why you need to go back, the solution is a US entry waiver.
We can help you with the preparation of the necessary documents at a small fraction of what it would cost with an immigration lawyer.
Reasons you may require a US waiver
There are three main reasons you may be refused entry to the United States. Although we do not handle medical inadmissibility we have extensive experience completing criminal inadmissibility waivers as well as waivers for those who have overstayed their welcome and/or been deported.
For a complete list of disqualifications please see the link below. Be advised that some situations cannot be remedied.
If you are concerned that you may be inadmissible because of a criminal record or for overstaying your welcome / being deported please feel free to give us a call. We will advise you based on our experience processing waivers since 2002.
Our advice may contradict other information you’ve been given but this should not come as a surprise. The legislation concerning United States access is complicated. Furthermore, American border guards are given discretion to refuse people entering the country as they see fit.
Exceptions to criminal inadmissibility
United States law does allow for some exceptions to the criminal inadmissibility rule but in our experience it is not applied reliably. For example only criminal convictions should result in criminal inadmissibility (meaning the accused was found guilty and then convicted – rather than discharged, dismissed, etc). However, we do not see that part of the rule applied evenly. We speak to a lot of people who have been refused for criminal charges that did not result in a conviction.
Our advice is that if a record or arrest is showing on your criminal abstract you should stay away from the border until it has been remedied. We do not suggest relying on a US border guard to recognize the difference between a conviction and a non-conviction.
The one charge commonly permitted at the US border is a DUI. However, if you have more than one DUI arrest on your record it is possible you may be refused entry at the border.
The most common criminal restrictions involve the following:
- Crimes of Moral Turpitude
- Multiple Convictions of any kind
- Drug Possession and Trafficking
Please keep in mind that we regularly speak to people who have been refused entry for crimes that would not technically be considered crimes of moral turpitude. The only way to be sure you are not at risk when crossing the border is to – 1. Have no criminal information associated with your name or 2. Be in possession of a valid US entry waiver. Under any other circumstance you are taking chances with being denied entry.
The waiver application process
Applying for a US entry waiver is a long and tedious process that begins with having your fingerprints taken by a police jurisdiction or an RCMP accredited fingerprinting agency. We are one of the few companies in Canada with a “Direct Connect” digital fingerprinting system connected to Civil Fingerprinting in Ottawa. While others are required to outsource steps in the waiver application process we are able to complete your application from start to finish.
The finished application will include a long list of documentation required by American authorities. This includes biographical information, immigrations forms, court documents, conviction reports and more.
It will also include information that will help prove you have ties to Canada and documentation to prove you will not be a financial burden on the United States while visiting (this really means you have money to spend on vacation).
Of course it is possible to prepare a waiver application on your own. However, you cannot do your own fingerprints so this step will have to be handled by a professional organization like the National Pardon Centre. Furthermore, the results of your application will largely depend on not only the severity of your criminal record but also how well your application has been prepared. Be careful because you do not want to spend a lot of time and resources only to receive a negative response.
If you are concerned about this let us do the work for you. We have extensive experience processing US entry waiver applications and we promise to provide you with information that is honest and in your best interest.
Hiring a lawyer vs. an agency vs. doing the paperwork yourself
Hiring a lawyer
The advantage to hiring a lawyer is that a lawyer has extensive knowledge of the actual law. However, lawyers commonly charge an hourly wage which can add up to a lot of money. We have heard of lawyers charging up to $10,000 to prepare a US entry waiver which is a sum we think is grossly disproportionate to the service provided.
Furthermore, lawyers typically do not have extensive experience handling US entry waiver applications since their primary occupation involves other matters. Lawyers are also unable to take fingerprints. Therefore lawyers tend to be a costly solution to a problem that can often be done with much less financial investment and better results.
Hiring an agency
Agencies like the National Pardon Centre provide waiver application services at a greatly reduced cost.
Our other advantage is that we have extensive experience dealing with the actual waiver process, rather than extensive knowledge of the legislation governing these applications. In other words, our advantage is practical rather than theoretical.
If you are looking for specific, accurate advice on what the law says, consult a lawyer. If you are looking for advice how YOU should proceed in order to gain entry to the United States as easily as possible, consider talking to us.
We provide US entry waiver preparation services at a fraction of what a lawyer will typically charge and we have custom software developed specifically to track your file through the various stages of a waiver application.
We will also monitor your file free of charge once your waiver has been granted and we will inform you when it is time to renew the application.
Doing it yourself
If you prepare your own waiver application be careful because the process is long and tedious. However, like many things in life if you are able to do it correctly, you will save some money by doing the legwork yourself.
The trade off will be the time learning what documentation is required and then preparing it all correctly. Keep in mind that even if you prepare your own application, there are considerable costs that will still apply. Namely the $585 USD filing fee that is payable upon submission of your completed application.
Waiver eligibility – Working with us
Whereas the Canadian government has strict rules governing who can apply for a Canadian pardon and when, the same is not true for the US entry waiver.
Any Canadian citizen who has a criminal record can apply for a US entry waiver and the vast majority of the applications we prepare are successful. As long as you aren’t currently facing charges in court – or still serving your sentence – you’re eligible to apply. Keep in mind that some charges will not get you banned from the United States. If you are unsure about this we suggest you call and speak with a counsellor.
Criteria for success
A better way to look at the waiver application process is to think about what makes an application successful, rather than what makes an applicant eligible.
Although the US Department of Homeland Security might have concerns about granting a waiver to someone who has recently been convicted of a serious offence, most Canadians will have their waiver granted even if their charges are fairly recent.
It is not in the US government’s interest to keep law-abiding and responsible Canadians from crossing the border. The people who evaluate waiver applications understand this.
They are however concerned with the following because the waiver application is strictly for travel purposes only:
- That the applicant might re-offend while they’re in the United States.
- That the applicant might violate US immigration law by working illegally.
- That the applicant might be travelling to the United States for a period longer than six months.
What do I do?
You need to assure the American government that you are not a risk. There are many things you can do to facilitate getting this point across in your waiver application. For example:
- Do acknowledge that you made mistakes in the past and that you have taken steps to change.
- Do show what steps you have taken and what results they have led to.
- Prove you have money to spend and strong ties to Canada.
- Show that you learned from your mistakes and you’ve moved on with your life.
- Do not make excuses for your criminal behaviour.
- Do not suggest that past offences were only minor or imply that you pleaded guilty simply because your lawyer told you to.
Ties to Canada
You can show that you’re not planning on living or working illegally in the US by telling the Americans about your life in Canada. Tell them about your job and your family and friends. Tell them things you love about your home country. Tell them about your home and what you do for fun.
Whatever parts of your life you decide to reveal the message you want to send is that you are an upstanding and responsible citizen of Canada – just the kind of person they want to welcome at the border.
There other things you are required to include in your waiver application but they are items that must be included, rather than details you can add to make your application look that much better. These include your criminal record, court documents, immigration forms, etc.
If you are planning to prepare an application on your own take your time and be careful. The result – if successful – will be a waiver document that is valid for 1 – 5 years. But once it expires you need to reapply so you want to submit the best application possible.
If you have any questions please call or send us an email. We would be happy to prepare the best waiver application possible on your behalf.
Time required to obtain an entry waiver
The application process takes anywhere from 8 – 12 months, start to finish. Please be aware that these are averages only. We provide no guarantees with processing times since most of the steps involved require communication with various government agencies. Since we cannot guarantee the government agency time frames, we cannot provide you with a guaranteed time frame.
That being said our files do reliably fall within the 8 – 12 month time frame and once in awhile we even see a waiver finished in less time than 8 months.
Normally the time required is half spent by us preparing the required documents, while the other half is spent by the Department of Homeland Security reviewing the application and then granting the waiver.
Beware of any company claiming time frames that differ from above as it is simply not possible to reliably process a US waiver any quicker. Since most people tend to want it done ASAP, there is an obvious sales incentive for some companies to claim they can do it faster than anyone else.
Instructions for filing your waiver
Applicants must file the US entry waiver on their own but we provide our clients with clear instructions on when, where and how to get this done. We also provide up to date information on the most accessible locations.
Typically you will be required to go to a port of entry. This will usually either be a land border or an airport. Once the application is submitted the border agent will collect the $585 USD filing fee and take your fingerprints. You will then wait for DHS to process your application and return the valid US waiver document allowing you to freely cross the border again.
Results of your application
It is important to realize that there are no guarantees when it comes to your waiver being granted. However, if you are working with us we promise to give you an honest consultation and let you know what the chances are that your application will be accepted or refused.
Some things that will negatively affect your application:
- Very recent convictions
- Being on probation
- Poorly prepared application
- Incorrect or invalid application
- Expired documentation in your application
Some things that will positively affect your application:
- A well prepared application
- Correct, valid documentation with official translations (if required)
- No recent charges on your record
- Strong ties to Canada
- Valid reasons for travelling to the United States
- Strong character references
The results of your waiver will be a document that is valid for anywhere from 1 – 5 years. You can travel as much as you like so long as the waiver is valid and you are following standard travel guidelines and laws that are applicable to everyone.
Rest assured that the vast majority of applicants will have no problem obtaining a positive result with their application.
If you are worried your waiver won’t be accepted please give us a call to discuss your case. We promise to advise you honestly if we think there is a chance that your application will not be accepted.
American access to Canadian criminal records
American border agents have limited access to CPIC which stands for Canadian Police Information Centre. It is the central repository of police records in Canada. If you have an active criminal record that will be revealed from a regular background check you are at risk when crossing the border.
Pardons / record suspensions and the US border
Although American border agents can access CPIC they are not able to access criminal records for which a pardon / record suspension has been granted. However, if they have already viewed the criminal record PRIOR to the pardon / record suspension being granted that information would have been downloaded into the American criminal record database. In that case the criminal record will still be accessible and a pardon will not affect your ability to cross the border.
Where can I travel with a US entry waiver?
The official document from the American government allows you to travel to the United States of America for recreational purposes. If you are not in possession of a valid waiver you can still travel to any other country with a criminal record and it should not be a problem. But keep in mind that your travel plans cannot include a stop in the United States, even if it is just a layover en route to another location.
If you have to clear American customs you must be sure you are either in possession of a valid US entry waiver or that there is no criminal record attached to your name.
For further information consult our website or give us a call and speak with a counsellor today.