It can be difficult to enter Canada with a criminal record but there are some options to become admissible.

Anyone trying to enter Canada with a felony conviction on their criminal record may be surprised to learn that they might be considered inadmissible. This can be true for residents of any country who would like to immigrate to Canada or even just visit several years post-conviction.

However, in some circumstances it may be possible for individuals with recorded convictions to enter Canada if they are able to obtain a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or they can demonstrate that they have completed the criminal rehabilitation process.

What makes a person inadmissible to Canada?

There is a long list of felony convictions that can make a person inadmissible to Canada. The most common offences are reckless driving, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, fraud, assault, and drug offences.

Any one of these can be enough to prevent you from being admitted to Canada, even if they are considered minor and happened a long time ago. It is also worth noting that those who are currently serving a sentence or have completed one very recently, are less likely to be granted admission into Canada.

Temporary Resident Permit

Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) gives you legal entry to Canada for a specific period of time if you can provide a valid reason for your visit. TRPs can be applied for at any point, regardless of how long ago you completed your sentence or even if you are still serving part of your sentence.

However, the likelihood of getting a TRP decreases with the severity of the offence committed and how recently your sentence was completed, or if it is still in progress.

How to apply?

There are two ways to apply for a TRP. In both cases, you will need to submit supporting documents that explain the reason you are inadmissible to Canada, as well as your reason for coming to Canada. In all instances, even tourism, an officer will weigh the risks and benefits to allowing you to enter Canada based on your previous conviction.

A TRP is only valid for the length of you time you plan to be in Canada, and you will require a new one each time you enter the country.

Once you, or your lawyer, have gathered all the necessary documents you will need to send your application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for approval.

Apply through a consulate

If you have time to plan your trip well in advance, U.S citizens can submit their TRP application to a Canadian consulate. The processing time can vary but if you are approved, you are guaranteed entry into Canada.

Applying at a port of entry

It is possible to obtain a TRP upon arrival at point of entry into Canada such as an airport or land boarder but there is no guarantee that the Canadian Immigration Officer will allow you to enter the country. The final decision rests with the official and they must weigh if your trip is justified against the health and security of Canadians.

If you are denied entry, you will not be allowed to enter Canada until you get approval from a Canadian consulate.

Criminal rehabilitation

Another path to becoming admissible is through criminal rehabilitation. If you have been unable to enter Canada in the past and more than five years have passed since the end of your sentence you might be eligible to apply.

An individual is deemed rehabilitated if they can prove they have been living a stable lifestyle, at least five years have elapsed since the end of their sentence, and they are unlikely to be involved in further criminal activity.

The way the five years is calculated can differ depending on the type of sentence you served.

  • Suspended sentence: count five (5) years from the date of sentencing.
  • Suspended sentence with a fine: count five (5) years from the date the fine was paid. In the case of varying payment dates, the rehabilitation period starts on the date of the last payment.
  • Imprisonment without parole: count five (5) years from the end of the term of imprisonment.
  • Imprisonment and parole: count five (5) years from the completion of parole.
  • Probation: probation is part of the sentence. Count five (5) years from the end of the probation period.
  • Driving prohibition: count five (5) years from the end date of the prohibition. You are prohibited by the Criminal Court from driving.

The type of conviction makes a difference

The biggest consideration in deciding if an individual is rehabilitated is establishing what would have happened if you had committed same offence within Canada. IRCC distinguishes between convictions that result in a sentence of less than 10 years under Canada’s Canadian Criminal Code and convictions that result in convictions of more than 10 years. Anything over 10 years is considered serious criminality and can have a negative impact on your chances of being deemed rehabilitated.

Once you are deemed to be rehabilitated, you will not need to go through the process again each time you enter Canada.

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