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Criminal Ineligibility

Criminal Ineligibility for a Visa or Entry into the United States

If you have any criminal record, no matter how minor or how long ago the offense, you may be refused a visa or entry to the United States. There may also be problems in traveling through U.S. airports. Under U.S. law, a pardon issued by Canadian authorities is not recognized for purposes of entry into the United States. Even though you may have entered the United States without hindrance in the past, you may be denied entry at a future date based upon disclosure/discovery of your criminality.

Not all criminal convictions create an ineligibility to enter the U.S., but any past criminal record must be declared. Attempting to gain entry without declaring that you have been arrested could result in a permanent ineligibility and/or detention at a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) enforcement facility while a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer determines your admissibility.

Canadian Citizens

Canadian citizens with any criminal record should contact the DHS or CBP at a Port of Entry well in advance of travel to the United States to determine whether their criminality makes them ineligible for admission without a waiver of ineligibility. Please also consult the CBP website for more information.

If you are ineligible to enter the United States, you may apply for a waiver of ineligibility. This will involve completing an Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-Immigrant (Form I-192). This form is available from DHS/CBP from CBP at either a U.S Port of Entry, or at any Canadian airport with a U.S. preclearance facility (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montréal-Trudeau). The form(s) can also be downloaded from the Internet at the USCIS web site. CBP Ottawa Airport accepts applications 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, Monday to Friday. There is a fee and it may take several months to process your application.

If you have been previously deported or removed from the United States, you may apply for permission to re-enter the U.S. This will involve completing an Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal (Form I-212). This form is available from DHS/CBP at any land port of entry to the United States, any Canadian airport with a U.S. preclearance facility or can be downloaded from the Internet at the USCIS web site. There is a fee and it may take several months to process your application.

Status of Waiver Application

If you have applied for a Waiver of Ineligibility you can obtain information concerning its status by emailing DHS at

Non-Canadian Citizens

Non-Canadian citizens with any criminal record, or a deportation or removal order, must qualify for a visa in the usual manner and then apply for the waiver at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. At the time of interview, bring all records relating to the criminal offence so that the matter can be reviewed.

Note: Since 1 May 2008, attorneys have no longer been allowed to accompany their clients in visa waiting rooms or at visa interviews.

Drunk Driving

Canadian Citizens: If there have been any convictions, take a copy of your conviction with you to show the Customs and Border Protection officer at the border. If the conviction was simply for driving under the influence, with no aggravating factors, there should be no problem with your travel to the U.S. However, the CBP Officials make all final determinations regarding entry into the United States.

Non-Canadian Citizens: When applying for a U.S. visa, the applicant must indicate whether there has been any instance of being stopped for driving while intoxicated, whether or not a conviction resulted. If detention resulted, bring proof of the outcome of such detention (conviction). If there has been a single incident within the five years prior to the visa interview, or if there have been two such incidents ever, the applicant will be referred to a designated physician for a medical review. Visa issuance will be delayed pending the outcome of the medical review.

Military Service

Anyone who left the United States to avoid conscription or unlawfully left the U.S. armed forces and has not since regularized his/her status, could still have an outstanding warrant for arrest or be ineligible for U.S. entry. If in doubt, please check with the nearest DHS orCBP officer.

DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program

The Department of Homeland Security's Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) provides a single point of contact for individuals who have inquiries or seek resolution regarding difficulties they experienced during their travel screening at airports or train stations or crossing U.S. borders, including:

  • Denied or delayed airline boarding;
  • Denied or delayed entry into and exit from the United States at a port of entry; or
  • Continuously referred to secondary screening.

To initiate an inquiry, please log onto DHS TRIP's interactive web site. You will be asked to describe your concerns and experience, provide contact information and be assigned a case number to help you monitor the progress of your inquiry.