US waivers or Canadian pardons? Both legal documents have been around for the better part of the past half century. Both aid in the rehabilitation of reformed people with past criminal convictions. In today's society of increasing paranoia and hyper-security, US Entry Waivers and Canadian pardons are in high demand. But times are changing, and both bills have had or are having dramatic re-writes. The US waiver has cut down its validity period and the Canadian pardon will be narrowing its eligibility criteria. With these changes making them more inaccessible to people, as well as both bills requiring fees which have increasingly been hiked to hefty amounts, it may become necessary to choose between the two.

The US Immigration and Nationality Act was passed in 1952, and with it came US Waivers. Permanent US Entry Waivers, otherwise known as the I-175 US Border Crossing Cards, used to be available for Canadians with minimum hassle. Now, only form I-192 is accepted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its validity time lasts from one to five years. The events of 9/11 which precipitated the creation of the DHS also precipitated this change. Unfortunately, at the same time, the tighter border security caused an influx of applications for the US waiver, causing the growing backlog of people trying to cross border to the US. The wait time for a US Entry Waiver is anywhere from a few months to more than a year and the fee per application just went up to $585 – whether it gets approved or not. With that much trouble and expense, people may well wonder if the US waiver is worth it.

Canadian pardons have been a part of the Canadian justice system, administered by the National Parole Board (now the Parole Board of Canada) ever since the Criminal Records Act was passed in 1985. They have not changed too much until the past year or so when Bill C-23A was passed, which restricted eligibility and increased wait times for pardons. Its counterpart, Bill C-23B, is currently in parliament and narrows eligibility for pardons even more severely, as well as changing "pardons" into the less forgiving "record suspensions". People who have committed three or more serious indictable offenses will no longer be eligible for a pardon under Bill C-23B. Also, instead of the chain of bureaucracy which processes the pardons, there will be one person appointed to oversee the whole record suspension process. Pardons as they are now are not too expensive, averaging between $100 to $200 to do it yourself. However, it is very complicated to complete by yourself and the wait time is quite lengthy, ranging from a year and a half to two years or more before the necessary documentation can be gathered and the PBC can process it. The pardon, though, is at least permanent once attained.

So which act seems more useful – the US Entry Waiver or the Canadian pardon? Both are necessary products of today's society – but the decision remains an intensely individual one, as even though the restrictions for each narrow, the need remains varied and great.