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Criminal Inadmissibility – What You Should Know Before Trying to Enter Canada

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Anyone applying for Canadian permanent residency or to visit, work, or study in Canada may be prohibited from entering the country if he/she has been charged or convicted of a criminal offence that occurred inside or outside of Canada. Even minor offences may render a person inadmissible to Canada.

Some examples of convictions that could make an applicant inadmissible to Canada include shoplifting, assault, and possession of marijuana or other controlled substances/drugs. Even driving while under the influence (DUI) can lead to an applicant being refused entry to Canada.

That being said, there may be ways of coming to Canada even with past convictions.

Criminal Rehabilitation

A conviction for a single summary offence (misdemeanour) may be ignored for Canadian immigration purposes. If an applicant was convicted of one or more indictable offences (felonies) and more than five years have passed since the completion of any imposed sentences, including probation, that applicant is eligible to submit an application for Criminal Rehabilitation. To submit an application for Criminal Rehabilitation, an applicant must provide proof that he/she has been rehabilitated and is not likely to re-offend.

Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)

If an applicant was convicted of an indictable offence and less than five years have passed since the completion of the sentence, the applicant is technically criminally inadmissible to Canada. However, an applicant may be admitted to Canada for a specific purpose by applying for a Temporary Resident Permit. An applicant must have good reasons for wanting to enter Canada and these will be measured against the danger to Canadian society in admitting the applicant.

Deemed Rehabilitated

If an applicant was convicted of a single imprisonment offence and the equivalent Canadian offence does not carry a maximum sentence of ten years or more and the completion of the sentence occurred more than ten years ago, the applicant is deemed to have been rehabilitated. Although no specific application is required, an applicant must prove that the sentence has been completed.


For the purposes of Canadian immigration, some sentences, such as conditional discharges and dismissed charges, are not considered convictions. Sentencing can vary by country and state, so each case needs to be examined on its own merits.

Understanding how a criminal offence in one country is equivalent to an offence in Canada can be complicated. Whether you need to enter Canada to visit a family member or attend a business meeting, you need to know if a past criminal offence will prevent you from entering Canada and which steps need to be taken before applying to enter Canada.

Campbell Cohen has extensive experience dealing with all types of criminality-related immigration issues. Contact us for more information about the preparation of a legal opinion, or find out more about how we can help you.