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Traveling to the United States more and more difficult for Canadians with Criminal Records

If you have been following the news lately, flights to the U.S. from Canadian airports came crashing to a halt with news of the terrorist plot on Christmas Day. With each new terrorist plot uncovered and thwarted, the U.S. border and airport security are becoming more and more vigilent, and rightfully so. No one wants to witness the horrors of another September 11th type attack.

Unfortunately, the increased scrutiny at the border has had a few consequences. Much of the press on the matter has focused on the potential effect of increased border security on trade between Canada and the United States. The focus on trade is not unexpected. As of October, trade between the two countries totaled 351.31 Billion USD in 2009. Any security policy which hinders the exchange of goods across the border threatens the economic livelihood of both countries.

However, one of the less-observed consequences of the ever-tightening security on U.S. bound flights and border crossings is the effect on certain Canadians traveling to the United States.

The issue is criminal records, particularly old, minor offences such as theft and simple possession. Over 3 million Canadians have a criminal record of some form or another.

The United States has always had immigration laws prohibiting entry by people with past criminal records; however the laws were only loosely enforced prior to the 9/11.

Now, as border guards and customs officers do their due diligence on travelers, when the criminal record pops up on screen, they are forced to detain and process the unsuspecting Canadian traveler. Even for a 30 year old pot charge, a Canadian citizen can be forced through a 3 to 4 hour ordeal, including being fingerprinted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency.

Fortunately, there are solutions available to Canadian travelers with criminal records. If they have not yet been denied entry, they can apply for a Canadian pardon. If they have already been denied entry, they will need a U.S. Entry Waiver. Although these legal applications are complex, they can be obtained through a legal service such as Express Pardons for a nominal fee.


Jared Church is a voting member of the Paralegal Society of Canada, and a leading expert in the field of Canadian Pardons, U.S. Entry Waivers, criminal record systems, and similar legal matters in Canada. Feel free to Email Jared your questions at For more information on the author’s Pardon Society of Canada and Better Business Bureau accredited firm, visit

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