Edited and updated on November 1, 2019.
One in eight Canadians has a criminal record and traveling with one can be troublesome, but not all countries are as concerned with your record. Cuba is one of the most popular destinations for Canadians looking for some sunshine and culture and we get asked a lot if travel to Cuba is possible with a criminal record. Cuba is not likely to refuse entry to Canadians based on a criminal record. Anecdotal reports indicate that customs officials do not commonly ask this question. As well, there is no information on the Embassy website. However, keep in mind that any foreign country has the right to deny you entry for any reason, including a record.
That said, Cuban border guards do not have access to the same databases as US or Canadian officials. When you travel to Cuba, they cannot see your record simply by scanning your passport. A traveller would have to be a serious danger to the public to be flagged in international databases. Your old DUI or possession charge is not going to show up on Interpol.
However, it’s never a good idea to lie if you are being questioned about your record. This can make things worse, always answer honestly and with integrity.
Tips for travel to Cuba
Documents: Travellers to Cuba are required to acquire a tourist card. This is simply a matter of paying money to a tour operator, airline or tourist office. However, if you are applying for a business or student visa, officials may investigate your background. This could result in denied entry based on a criminal record. Talk to the embassy staff about your record and any pardon you may have received to find out if you are admissible.
Emergency landing: Canadian flights don’t stopover in the United States on their way to Cuba (at least for now). However, there is always a chance that some emergency will force a landing. If that happens, you may have to pass through customs and could be turned back to Canada if you don’t have a US Entry Waiver.
Current drug use: Cuba does not tolerate drug use. Even your hotel will report you if they find out you are using drugs. Leave it at home.
Why do Canadians get denied entry to Cuba?
Cuban authorities will ask if you have enough money to pay your way. You should have at least $50 for each day of your trip.
They will also ask about health insurance. Cuba has an above-average health care system in relation to the size of its economy. They don’t want people taking advantage. You must have travel insurance. If you forget, the Embassy website states this can be purchased by third-party vendors at the airport.
Do you have a return ticket? Cuban hospitality is legendary, but that doesn’t mean you can outstay your welcome.
Cuba is a fascinating country that offers a unique tourist opportunity for Canadians. There are risks to travelling with a criminal record, but if you are honest and cooperative you will most likely have an enjoyable and stress-free trip.
If you are the type of traveller that likes to dot all of your i’s and cross all of your t’s, contact us for a FREE consultation. We are here to help.
Will a pardon or waiver help you travel with confidence? Contact us for a consultation.