As of October 1, Canada has lifted all COVID-19 related travel restrictions This means unvaccinated travellers will now be allowed to enter Canada from abroad without requiring a test or needing to complete a quarantine.
While this opens some doors for some, there are still travellers who may not be admissible to Canada due to their criminal records. A criminal record in any country, including the United States, can have an impact on your ability to enter Canada even if it has been many years since your 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 or they can demonstrate that they have completed the Criminal Rehabilitation process.
What makes a person inadmissible to Canada?
There are several felony convictions that can make a person inadmissible to Canada. Some of the most common offences include reckless driving, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, fraud, assault, and drug offences.
Any one of these, even if they are considered minor, can be enough to prevent you from being admitted to Canada, even if it occurred a long time ago. However, 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
If you need to enter Canada for a specific length of time, you can apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP). A TRP gives you legal entry to Canada for a specific period of time provided you have 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.
It should be noted that the likelihood of getting a TRP decreases with the severity of the offence committed, how recently you completed your sentence or if it is still in progress.
How to apply?
There are two options for those who wish to apply for a TRP. In both instances, 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. All applications will be reviewed by an officer who will weigh the risks and benefits of allowing you to enter the country, based on your previous conviction.
If you are approved, 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 varies but will grant you entry into Canada and ensure you spend less time at your port of entry.
Apply at a port of entry
It is possible to obtain a TRP upon arrival at port 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 on duty and they must weigh if your trip is justified against the health and security of Canadians. There is still a chance you may be denied entry into Canada.
If you are denied entry, you will not be allowed to enter Canada until you get approval from a Canadian consulate.
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 for Criminal Rehabilitation.
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.
Legal opinion letter
This letter is drafted by a Canadian lawyer and uses sections of Canadian law to provide a legal basis to Canadian border officers as to why they should allow you to enter the country
The type of conviction makes a difference
Ultimately, the most significant factor in deciding if an individual is rehabilitated is establishing what would have happened if you had committed same offence within Canada. For example, 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 the likelihood of being deemed rehabilitated.
While the process can be lengthy and there are fees involved, if you are deemed to be rehabilitated, you will not need to go through the process again each time you enter Canada.