The Canadian government has dropped the Mexican visa requirement, which also eliminates any need for visas from Canadians. While this may be a relief for many people with criminal records, it could raise a potential problem.
Without a need for a Mexican visa, it’s less likely that a criminal record could be investigated and used to deny entry. In practice, entering Mexico as a tourist is now similar to entering the United States. The United States does not require Canadians to get a visa for tourist visits. Simply show your passport on arrival. However, the United States has an extensive database of Canadian criminal records. Canada can also access a database of US records.
Now that there is no Mexican visa requirement, many people are calling on the Canadian government to introduce a similar record sharing agreement. Their main concern is that serious criminals can enter Canada.
Mexican visa issues
A report from the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) said the number of Mexican residents with records making an appearance at the Canadian border had increased since the visa was lifted. The CBSA said it identified 65 people with serious records midway through 2017. In comparison, they only identified 53 in 2016 and 28 in 2015. These records were quite serious: “drug smugglers, human smugglers, recruiters, money launderers and foot soldiers.” With so many serious criminals being caught, many wonder if offenders with violent records are being allowed into the country simply because they haven’t appeared in international databases like Interpol.
This is fueling calls for Canada to share information in the same way that it shares information with the United States. If this happens drug crimes, assaults, thefts and other common records could prevent entry to Mexico. Any rules made by Canada would likely be reciprocated. In other words, Mexico would agree to share their databases in return for access to Canadian databases.
What offences can keep you from entering Mexico?
Currently, these are the offences that can prevent one from being admitted to Mexico:
“manslaughter; terrorism and international terrorism; sabotage; piracy; genocide; prison break; attacks on public thoroughfares; drug-related crimes; corruption of minors; child pornography; exploitation of minors; falsifying and counterfeit of currency; rape; highway robbery; trafficking in minors; trafficking in undocumented persons; aggravated robbery; vehicular theft; extortion; crimes against the environment, committed with intent; forced disappearance of persons; bearing arms reserved for the exclusive use of the Army, Navy or Air Force; smuggling into the country firearms not reserved for the exclusive use of the Army, Navy or Air Force; smuggling and comparable crimes, and; tax fraud and comparable crimes.”
As well, any warrants, unresolved charges or outstanding sentences can result in denial of entry.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that many Canadians with records, such as drug possession, are able to enter Mexico because there is a lack of information sharing. This could change if those raising concerns about the Mexican visa suspension are effective in getting laws changed.
Today individual Mexican border agents have the ultimate authority to deny entry to any Canadian. In the United States, this type of discretion can be overcome with a US Entry Waiver. If you have a US border waiver, you can still be denied, but not on the basis of your criminal record.
What can you do?
There are not many options for people wanting to find out if they can enter Mexico with a criminal record:
- Contacting the Mexican Embassy or Consulate may help you determine if you are eligible to enter before you spend money on an all-inclusive trip.
- A Record Suspension may help if you are applying for a visa for work or study. This will allow you to provide a clean record check to Embassy officials.
- A US Entry Waiver can help you get to Mexico if you are worried about stopovers or emergency landings in the United States, but it won’t help you enter Mexico.
- Carrying your court records with you can help you demonstrate that your offence was minor and in the past.
However, currently there is no application that will help you overcome inadmissibility to Mexico. Increased record sharing may result in more denials, but it may also help establish a standard process for travelers.