Prior to 2013, individuals with past criminal records used to travel to the United States without a waiver as long as they had a Record Suspension (formerly called a Pardon). Since then, the amount of information shared between the Canadian and American governments has heightened the barrier for Canadians with past criminal charges entering the United States. This is due to the fact that the US government does not recognize Canadian Record Suspensions (Pardons) anymore and people with past criminal records generally require a waiver to enter the US.

Waivers are granted at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and are usually valid from 1 to 5 years. People that travel to the U.S. regularly for business or pleasure are advised by Pardon Services Canada to keep track of their waiver expiration date.  Lynn Kim, a Record Suspension and Waiver Specialist with Pardon Services Canada says, “Waiver renewals take on average almost a year to obtain, although the time varies on a case by case basis.”  She also notes that, “The DHS tends to grant longer periods for entry when waivers are continually renewed.”

Lynn offers the following tips to ensure trouble-free entry into the States.

  • Waiver renewals should start approximately a year before the current waiver expires.
  • If an entry waiver was only granted for a year, start the process again soon.
  • The waiver renewal process is not necessarily quicker than the initial waiver process since the procedure is the same and requires original supporting documents.
  • The time frame is largely affected by the courts and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security processing times, however the type of offence(s) involved, also affects the processing time.
  • Follow the current rules and update all supporting documents when renewing an application. For example, those that might not have had to provide a lot of details in a letter of circumstance previously, are now required to do so.