I’ve been wondering for a while if it’s possible to travel to Canada or Mexico from the US if you have a criminal record? I’m looking at booking some travel but can’t seem to get a straight answer on this topic.
Many people who have criminal records can not travel to Canada without special permission. The Canadian government has an overview of the rules, but many crimes which may seem relatively minor to you are included on the list.
Anecdotally, it seems that the Canadian and US governments share a lot of data here, so it can be difficult to avoid the rules. I know Americans who have traveled fairly extensively without incident after criminal mishaps in their youth, but who have not been able to go to Canada.
If you are in fact ineligible to enter Canada, there is a process to overcome this ineligibility but it is quite complicated and you may wish to hire a lawyer or someone else experienced with the process in order to help you.
In addition to the other answer, for Canada, one notable exception to the general strict inadmissibility rule on criminality is that you may still be admissible if your only conviction is an offence that could only have been prosecuted summarily in Canada.
You should still ask a Canadian immigration lawyer familiar with the issue, as it is not within the ability of most people to draw parallel to equivalent Canadian offences and determine the nature of the conviction. It could also be useful, if it is really a minor offence and if you live close to the border, to ask a Canadian border officer to attempt entry. In most cases, you will be allowed to withdraw your application to entry with no particularly serious adverse consequence for future if the officer alleges you to be inadmissible.
In any case, you will still be required to declare at border, if asked, any conviction you have and any circumstances of the offence. Like all foreigners without permanent resident status, the decision will be at discretion of the border officer, so you probably still won't be allowed in if it is right after your sentence or if you do not seem to have any sort of remorse or regret.
But if it is more than a few years ago, generally you won't have a problem for a single conviction of what would be a pure summary offence in Canada. This is useful for people who for example had a conviction for non-felony disorderly conduct.
I don't think you'll have a problem entering Mexico. I had a misdemeanor that still shows up on my background check and I have gotten in just fine. However, I do know of some people who have been denied entry to Mex. Canada is a different animal. My buddy who served in the Military was refused entry because of a DUI conviction. It was bad because he told me he missed a wedding.
This article may be of help: Can I Travel to Mexico with a Criminal Record?