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Entering Canada with a Criminal Record

On March 1, 2012 Canada issued a new policy to facilitate travel to Canada for U.S based travelers with a criminal conviction on their record.  The policy was implemented as part of Canada‘s “Tourism Facilitation Action Plan” (TFAP).

Under the new policy, U.S. citizens traveling to Canada MAY be able to obtain a Temporary Resident Permit, which is the permit that allows an inadmissible person to travel to Canada, without paying the $200 CAD processing fee.  The processing fee may be waived if the individual meets all of the following criteria:

  •   They have only a SINGLE criminal conviction on their record
  •  The offence is not serious in nature and;
  •    They were not sentenced to any jail time for that conviction

Call for a free consultation about entering Canada with a DUI

This new policy in no way guarantees entry, it simply waives the fee associated with applying for the permit.  This fee exemption is also only applicable for one-time travel.  If the applicant is seeking re-entry on a TRP, the fee will apply even if the above criteria are met.  The Canadian Border Services Agent will have complete discretion to allow, or deny, entry to anybody.

Although the intent of this policy (OB 389) was to be to allow easier one-time entry to travelers with “minor” offenses  the laws regarding admissibility have not changed – only the fee, for certain individuals.  This policy has not resulted in easier entry to Canada for those with minor offenses.  Travellers should still prepare the application for a Temporary Resident Permit, in advance of travel.

As Citizenship and Immigration Canada state in their application statement:  “To be eligible for a temporary resident permit, your need to enter or stay in Canada must outweigh the health or safety risks to Canadian society, as determined by an immigration or a border services officer.  Even if the reason you are inadmissible seems minor, you must demonstrate that your visit is justified.”

Procedure to Obtain the Temporary Resident Permit

To cross the border under OB 389 you will need to fill out a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) at a Canadian visa office or when you arrive at the border.  The normal $200 TRP fee will be waived for this one time.

The normal $200 TRP fee will be waived for this one time.   A Canada Customs and Immigration officer will review the TRP and any other information you provide.  They will then decide if you will be issued the permit, for your particular reason for travel and determine if you will be allowed to enter the country.  This special TRP is valid as a one-time pass issued for a specific period of time.  It will expire when the traveller leaves Canada or on a date specified on the permit.

We have heard reports that most people are denied approval for a TRP when applying at the border when trying to cross.     This makes a certain amount of sense to us as border officials may not feel they have all of the information they need and may not be willing to take the time to research all aspects of your offense.  This may also happen if the officer believes that you do not have a significant reason to travel.  For these reasons it is imperative to have a well-prepared application to submit to the border officer.

Because this is a “once-in-a-lifetime” waiver, you will need go through the normal process of applying and paying for a TRP or a Rehabilitation Document for later border crossings. The same is true if you do not qualify under OB 389.

Reason for OB 389

Many tourists or business travelers from the United States are stopped by Canada Customs and denied entry to the country because they have a prior criminal conviction on their record – even if it occurred decades ago.  The biggest surprise is that you cannot get into Canada with any type of alcohol related driving offense.  Thousands of travelers are turned away every year at airports, ferry crossings, and land border crossings for DWI or DUI convictions.

OB 389 was driven by Canadian tourist industry complaints about lost American tourist dollars.   This is a temporary rule that is supposed to be replaced by a permanent rule in the future.

Stay Informed – Keep us Informed

We will update this post with additional information as it becomes available.  You should bookmark this post and check back to it if you are considering using this new process.

We would very much like to hear if you, or anyone you know, uses this procedure to cross the border.  Please email us with the results of any attempt to enter Canada under OB 389.