If you have a Canadian criminal record you are prevented by law from entering the United States of America (US). You may also find yourself inadmissible for overstaying your welcome or for being found with drugs at the border (among many other reasons).
Travel Restrictions and USA Entry Waivers
USA Border guards have access to CPIC (Canadian Police Information Center) at any time. This means that border guards are required only to type a name into their computer system for any criminal file the RCMP have recorded to show up. If you have a criminal record attached to your name you are barred by law from entering the United States.
Be advised the ONLY country this rule applies to is the USA. Travel anywhere else in the world is allowed. However, your flight plans cannot include a stop on American soil.
If you are caught trying to enter the United States illegally you risk not only refusal for entry, but confiscation of property, including the possible seizure of your vehicle. This counts for any vehicle holding a passenger with a criminal record, not just the driver.
Pardons and US Entry
A pardon application is not a guaranteed to overcoming inadmissibility to the United States. The American government does not recognize a Canadian pardon. However, if the Americans are unaware of your criminal record when you receive a pardon they can no longer access those charges and will only become aware of the record if you tell them.
Some offences such as DWI (drinking and driving) are considered by US law to be admissible offences. However, US border guards are given discretion to refuse entry to anyone for any criminal record. If you are traveling to the United States you are taking a risk.
On the other hand certain offences are sure to be treated severely. Drug charges of any kind are treated seriously at the border. At the National Pardon Centre we have clients who have done nothing more than admit to smoking marijuana in the past. They have never been arrested for drugs but are still not allowed to enter the country.
What to do
There is only one way to be absolutely sure you are not at risk when entering the United States of America. To guarantee entry you should be applying for a US entry waiver. A Canadian pardon may facilitate entry but it is not a legal means of overcoming inadmissibility.
If you have any concerns or further question concerning USA entry waivers or Travel restrictions please contact the National Pardon Centre.