Six common myths about criminal inadmissibility to Canada

Stephen Sherman
Published: May 25, 2018

There are many common misconceptions when it comes to the issue of criminal inadmissibility to Canada. While entering Canada when you have a criminal record is possible, there are a number of myths that need to be dispelled.

Here are six that lawyers often hear from clients:

1. I have been allowed into Canada on several different occasions

This is a logical assumption, but it unfortunately does not hold true in practice. This is because of the discretion Canadian immigration officers are given in the exercise of their duties. Ultimately, the decision as to whether or not to grant a particular individual entry to Canada lies solely with the immigration officer at the border. So, while a previous officer might have deemed you admissible, it is not safe to assume that this will always be the case moving forward. Anyone with even a minor, seemingly insignificant blemish on their record, or who has had any interaction with the court system, stands a chance of being denied entry to Canada.

2. I am an American citizen

Although the United States is our closest neighbour, both in terms of physical proximity and cultural similarities, being an American citizen does not pose any benefit when it comes to entering Canada if an individual has an offence on their record. Canada and the United States actually have an information sharing agreement whereby immigration authorities of either country have easy access to the criminal records of both U.S. and Canadian citizens. So, when a passport is swiped, the criminal history of the passport holder appears on the screen that the border agent sees, making it easy to determine if an individual is criminally inadmissible to Canada.

3. My offence was only considered a misdemeanor where it was committed

Unfortunately, this is often not taken into account when an immigration officer makes a determination as to inadmissibility. This is because it is how the offence is viewed in Canada that is the overarching factor in this determination; the more serious the offence is in Canadian law, the more likely an individual will be found inadmissible. Certain crimes are classified very differently in Canada and because of this it is important to verify the corresponding Canadian law with respect to the foreign offence in question.

4. My offence is from more than 10 years ago

There is a concept in Canadian immigration law called “deemed rehabilitation,” which holds that an individual is no longer inadmissible simply as result of the passage of time since the offence. The requisite amount of time is 10 years from the completion of sentence, but this time having elapsed does not necessarily resolve the situation. Firstly, if the offence is serious, meaning it has the potential to be punished by at least 10 years of incarceration according to Canadian law, the inadmissibility never goes away with the passage of time. This is also most often the case if an individual has two or more offences on his record. Secondly, even if an individual should qualify for deemed rehabilitation, the vast discretion of the immigration officer could work against the traveler; if the officer is of the mind that the traveler could pose a security risk to Canadians, he is within his rights to deny entry even if the conditions for deemed rehabilitation have been met. As well, sometimes the officer might be unfamiliar with the concept of deemed rehabilitation and its application, which is also a situation in which individuals are commonly denied entry into Canada.

5. I have met all the terms of the sentence that were imposed upon me

It stands to reason that after you have completed your sentence you would no longer be subject to negative consequences associated with your offence. After all, a legal authority heard your case, you were punished, and you complied with the terms of your punishment. Despite this, with respect to Canadian inadmissibility, there are temporal milestones that must be reached and conditions that must be satisfied, the lengths and natures of which depend on the severity and number of offences. Although you might have paid the price for your offence where it was committed, this unfortunately may not matter when it comes to Canadian inadmissibility.

6. I have been allowed to enter numerous countries all around the world

This is not really that helpful when it comes to Canadian inadmissibility because each country has its own criteria for determining whether or not an individual with a record will be granted entry. Although Canadian immigration authorities might view it positively that an individual with a checkered past has been allowed into other countries, taking this fact into account is completely up to the discretion of the reviewing officer and plays no official role in the process. Despite its seeming relevance, the fact of having been granted entry to other countries is usually not an important factor when it comes to determining inadmissibility to Canada.

Stephen Sherman is a Canadian immigration attorney with the Campbell, Cohen Immigration Law Firm in Montreal. He specializes in resolving issues relating to criminal inadmissibility to Canada.

If you have any questions about gaining entry to Canada, please send a detailed email to

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