Every summer season, hordes of foreign nationals flock to Canada for vacation, eager to take advantage of the natural beauty, bustling cities, vibrant culture, and near perfect summer weather. Despite their enthusiasm, however, each year a good number of these would-be visitors are denied entry into Canada for reasons of criminal inadmissibility.
In order to properly explain criminal inadmissibility to Canada, it is first necessary to provide a brief overview of how criminal offences are classified in Canada. Generally speaking, in Canada, there are three categories under which a criminal offence may fall.
Indictable offences roughly correspond to felonies in the United States. Like felonies, indictable offences are the more serious offences in the criminal code and therefore carry the possibility of a heavy punishment.
Second, there are summary offences, which can generally be equated to misdemeanors in the US. Summary offences are usually the more minor offences and, as a result, the harsh punishments associated with indictable offences are generally not available for these less serious offences.
There are also certain offences that can fall into either of the aforementioned categories. These are known as hybrid offences. The choice of this classification (either as indictable or summary) belongs to the prosecution, who may decide how it wants to proceed based on the gravity of the infraction, as well as other mitigating or aggravating factors.
With regard to entering Canada, while a conviction for a single summary offence does not render an individual inadmissible, a single indictable offence does have this effect. More than one summary conviction carries this effect as well. As it concerns hybrid offences, for the purposes of Canadian inadmissibility, these are treated as indictable offences. Therefore any one of the following scenarios, or combination thereof, can render an individual inadmissible to Canada; A criminal record with one indictable offence, a criminal record with one hybrid offence, or a criminal record with more than one summary conviction offence.
In terms of inadmissibility, the most commonly encountered hybrid offences are those pertaining to driving while intoxicated. Such offences have different designations depending on the circumstances of the infraction and where the offence was committed; DUI (driving under the influence), DWI (driving while impaired/intoxicated), DWAI (driving while ability impaired), DWUI (driving while under the influence), OWI (operating while intoxicated), OUI (operating under the influence), OMVI (operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated) or drunken driving, are all examples of such offences.
Despite their different titles, all of these offences usually lead to a finding of inadmissibility to Canada. While many foreign nationals may be unaware of this fact, here are some other offences that produce the same result:
1) Reckless Driving
When a criminal charge is pled down from a DUI to reckless driving, the individual concerned usually considers this an unqualified victory and rejoices. Despite his or her elation, if this individual were planning a trip to Canada in the near future, this jubilation would be quite short lived. This is because, in terms of the ability to legally enter Canada, a DUI charge and a reckless driving charge carry the same effect; they can both render someone inadmissible to Canada.
2) Using a credit card knowing it has been revoked or cancelled
Anybody who thinks that bad credit is punishment in and of itself would be mistaken if they have knowingly used a cancelled credit card and had the need to enter Canada legally. The prohibition against doing this is qualified as a hybrid offence. As such, it is one that can render someone inadmissible to Canada.
3) Driving while disqualified
A quick joyride while not having a valid license could be a thrilling and adrenaline pumping experience. What is less of a thrill is when such individuals discover that this driving adventure has the potential to hinder their ability to enter Canada legally. There are two possible methods of prosecution available for this offence, making it a hybrid offence. Consequently, it can result in a finding of inadmissibility to Canada.
4) Simple Assault
While a rowdy bar fight might be a commonplace occurrence during a night out, what is often less expected are the effects such a skirmish can carry with regard to the participants’ ability to enter Canada legally. Regardless of who is left standing when the fight concludes, if one of the participants has a need to travel to Canada in the near future, he or she will invariably be the loser. This is because the assault charge that may result from a fight is one that can render an individual inadmissible to Canada. Contrary to what many may believe, this is the case even if no injuries take place and no weapon is involved.
5) Petty theft
When it comes to theft, one might think that stealing items of little value would lead to proportionally sized consequences. This is not the case, however, if the perpetrator wishes to be legally admitted to Canada thereafter. Theft, no matter what the value, is an offence for which one may be found inadmissible to Canada; theft under CAD $5,000 is a hybrid offence and theft over CAD $5,000 is an indictable offence. Regardless of this qualification, the act of theft has the potential of robbing the perpetrating would-be visitor of their Canadian vacation.
It is not only career criminals who are being denied entry into Canada. Although the passage of time may resolve the issue, even a seemingly minor offence from a long time ago has the potential of hindering an individual’s ability to enter Canada legally. For would be vacationers, this can be a shocking and distressing discovery to make when at the Canadian border trying to enter. However, with a little foresight, advanced preparation, and the proper legal guidance, this shock and subsequent denial of entry may be avoided. For this reason, if an individual has any blemish whatsoever on his or her criminal record, it is prudent advice to check with a qualified Canadian immigration attorney before attempting to enter Canada.
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