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Resolving Criminal Inadmissibility to Canada

If you are likely to be barred from entering Canada due to a criminal conviction there are several options which may allow you to enter the country.  How you approach this depends on in which country the crime was committed. This is complicated information so we also have a short video you can view which provides an overview of your options to enter Canada with a criminal record.

For crimes committed within Canada, see our page “Entering Canada with Canadian Convictions”.

For Crimes Committed in the United States or Abroad

If your criminal record includes a hybrid or indictable crime committed anywhere outside Canada, it is likely that you will be deemed “criminally inadmissible” to Canada.
Which application process is most effective will depend on the crime the person was convicted of, and the amount of time that has passed since the sentence was completed. Temporary Resident Permits, Criminal Rehabilitation, and Deemed Rehabilitation are all options for resolved criminal inadmissibility and regaining the ability to enter Canada.

Which solution is most appropriate will depend on the amount of time that has passed since the completion of the sentence for the conviction in question.  “Completion of the sentence” includes the completion of all jail time, probation, and the payment of any fines.  The countdown towards the 5 years does not begin until the last aspect of the sentence is completed.

Time Passed Since Sentence Completion How to Resolve Inadmissibility
Less than 5 years If fewer than 5 years have passed since the completion of the sentence, the person is not yet eligible for Criminal Rehabilitation and pursuing a Temporary Resident Permit is the only option for entering Canada.
More than 5 years but less than 10 years After 5 years have passed since the completion of the sentence for the conviction, the person becomes eligible for Criminal Rehabilitation, which wipes the slate clean for the purposes of Canadian immigration.
10 years or more If 10 or more years have passed since the completion of the sentence for the conviction, you may be deemed rehabilitated by the passage of time.  This only applies to individuals who only have one minor offense on their criminal records.

Temporary Resident Permits

Applying for a Temporary Resident Permit, or TRP, is the best way to be granted entry to Canada for a particular trip or a series of related trips. This is how American athletes get into the country despite DUI’s or other offenses.  About 10,000 TRP’s are granted every year and many are to people with less than stellar pasts.

A TRP is an application that requests entry to Canada for a specific time period despite a criminal conviction.  A TRP only grants entry to Canada for a fixed time period – although you can enter and leave Canada multiple times within that timeframe.  A TRP is only valid for one year from the date of issuance.

To be granted a TRP, the applicant will need to demonstrate a required need for entering Canada, such as work, an emergency situation, or a humanitarian/compassionate reason.  The goal on a TRP application is to demonstrate that the individual is not a threat to Canadian security during the period they will be in Canada, and to convince the office that their reason for being in Canada during that period may be a benefit to Canada (for example, if the person is attending a work meeting and will be bringing business to Canada).

The benefit of a TRP is that unlike Criminal Rehabilitation, it can be applied for at either a Canadian consulate or at any Canadian port of entry (borders, airports, etc.).  Making the application at a port of entry will most likely be significantly faster than through a consulate – which often have long wait times.   Wherever you file it, a TRP application can take up to 6 months for processing and a personal interview may be required.

Alternatively, you can just head out on your trip and file for the TRP when you reach the border.  However, given that the Canadian border officer has complete discretion as to whether to approve or deny your application, you have to be prepared for the fact that you could be turned around at the border.

Criminal Rehabilitation

While a TRP is a temporary solution, applying for and being granted Criminal Rehabilitation will permanently resolve a person’s inadmissibility to Canada and allow them to travel freely to Canada from that point on without requiring renewal, provided they are not convicted of another crime.

Criminal Rehabilitation is applied for through an application submitted to particular Canadian consulates abroad – most notably the Canadian consulates in New York City and Los Angeles.  There are often long (upwards of a year and a half) processing times associated with these applications, so many applicants will submit their Criminal Rehabilitation application to the Canadian consulate and attempt to enter Canada while their application is being processed using a Temporary Resident Permit taken to the Canadian border.

In these applications, the onus is on the application to demonstrate that they have been rehabilitated since they committed their crime, to make clear that they will not offend again, and to showcase how they have become a productive member of their community.

The processing fees associated with Criminal Rehabilitation applications vary based on whether or not the conviction was considered serious criminality.  For non-serious convictions, the processing fee is $200 per application.  For serious criminality, this fee jumps to $1,000.

Deemed Rehabilitated

If 10 years have passed since the completion of a criminal sentence, individuals with only a single non-serious indictable conviction on their record may be deemed “rehabilitated by the passage of time” so long as there are no other convictions appearing on their criminal record.  If the person was convicted of a summary offense, they can be deemed rehabilitated after only 5 years, even if there are two offenses on their record, as summary offenses are minor offenses.  Deemed rehabilitation does not require any application.

For crimes that are considered “serious,” a person will never be deemed rehabilitated and will need to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation if they want their criminal record resolved for the purposes of immigration.

Legal Opinion Letter

If there is something on your criminal record such as a charge or arrest that may need to be explained, you may would benefit from obtaining a Legal Opinion Letter from a Canadian lawyer.  It is important to realize that it is up to you to demonstrate that you are NOT inadmissible to Canada.  If the border officer has doubts, they may refuse you.

A Legal Opinion Letter would explain the discrepancy on the person’s record, outline why the event is not equivalent to a conviction under Canadian law, and why it should not result in the person being deemed criminally inadmissible to Canada.

One final Note

It is important to keep in mind that Canadian border officers have a significant amount of discretion in determining who to let into Canada.  While it may seem intuitive, being as cooperative and as friendly as possible at the border can work wonders for being granted entry to Canada with a criminal conviction or having your application for entry to Canada approved.