When Americans travel across the border into Canada, the border officers will be able to see their criminal record. To guarantee the safety of its citizens, Canada and the United States exchange criminal background information via travel documents. Whether you enter Canada through land, air or sea, you must present your passport or authorized travel documents and any valid visas to a border agent at the point of entry (land, air, sea). Once your documents have been processed, an immigration officer will have access to your federal criminal history report and state police records, which may result in further questioning or even refusal of entrance. Even pending accusations can cause an immigration officer to do additional screening. At international airports, border officers also obtain passenger lists and are able to do background checks on any person on a given flight.

If a passenger on an incoming flight has a criminal past, they will almost certainly be flagged and escorted off the plane upon arrival in Canada. If you’re interested in obtaining a report comparable to the one shown at a Canadian border, it’s recommended that you obtain your own FBI criminal history record.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has full access to the FBI’s criminal database as of November 23rd, 2015. The Canadian Police Information Centre has access to criminal records from the United States (CPIC). Operated by the RCMP, the CPIC central police database is interfaced with the United States National Crime Information Center (NCIC), which is the FBI CJIS database interlinked with all federal, tribal, state, and local agencies in the US.

Prior to this date, border patrol checked the database only when a traveller was referred to secondary screening. The initial screening process involved scanning passports for wanted persons and lost, stolen, or fake passports. However, now border officers have the authority to conduct background checks on any American.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) figures obtained by Montreal newspaper La Presse suggest 31% more US citizens were turned away last year than 2015. In 2016, 30,233 Americans were sent back at the boundary compared to 23,052 the year before. In terms of inadmissibility, the most frequent U.S offences are those pertaining to driving or otherwise operating a vehicle (car, motorcycle, boat, etc.) while intoxicated. Such offences have different designations, depending on the circumstances of the infraction and where the offence was committed.

I was allowed to enter Canada last time, so I should be allowed to this time.   

While this is a plausible assumption, it is not sufficient in practise. The immigration officer at the port-of-entry (POE) to Canada has complete discretion over an individual’s eligibility. As such, even if an officer determined that you were eligible and permitted entry on a previous visit to Canada, it is not safe to assume that this will continue to be the case. Under the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, anyone with even a small offence on their record or who has had any contact with the legal system is subject to denial of entry to Canada.

Along with DUI, Americans charged with additional alcohol-related driving offences such as DWAI, OVI, or reckless driving may be denied entrance at the border. Over a dozen states in the United States share their DMV records with Canada, allowing the border to detect non-criminal impaired driving infractions as well as offences such as driving with a suspended licence.

Have a criminal record and need help entering Canada?

Start by checking your eligibility.

Check my eligibilityGet a free consultation


Entering Canada with a criminal record

To prevent being one of the approximately 30,000 people turned away at the border, there are a few options for overcoming your inadmissibility.

Submit an application for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP). A TRP permits you to enter Canada for a specific time period and may permit repeated entries. Additionally, you must have a legitimate motive for travelling and meet additional conditions. Because TRP processing can take up to four months, it is prudent to begin working with an immigration attorney well in advance of your trip.

Deemed Rehabilitation. Under Canadian immigration law, you are considered rehabilitated by the passage of time if ten years have passed since you satisfactorily completed the requirements of your sentence and if you have only one conviction on your record. In this instance, you may benefit from a Legal Opinion letter from an immigration attorney to avoid any complications at the border.

Criminal Rehabilitation (CR). The Canadian government grants criminal rehabilitation to those who are deemed unlikely to commit another infraction. Once five years have passed since the completion of your sentence, you may apply for criminal rehabilitation. The CR procedure is the only way to permanently resolve your inadmissibility. This process, once the application is filed to the government, might take up to 12 months.

Urgent TRP. If your travel is urgent, you can request for a TRP at the border. This is only recommended in extreme circumstances, such as a last-minute business trip. Instead of being forwarded to the Canadian Consulate for approval, the application prepared by AllCleared will be handed to border officers. The agent will make their decision immediately.


If you have a criminal conviction or arrest on your record, it will come up during your screening at the Canadian border.

Call us today for a free consultation at 1 (866) 972-7366.