FAQ: Criminal Inadmissibility to Canada

Michael Schwartz, Matt Hendler
Published: June 6, 2021

Anyone planning to enter Canada to immigrate, study, work, or simply visit may be prohibited from doing so if they have been charged or convicted of a criminal offence. Even minor offences may render a person inadmissible to Canada.

Here are some of the most common questions asked by individuals who may be considered inadmissible to Canada:

1. Does a criminal offence of any kind make me inadmissible to Canada?

It depends on several factors, such as the type of crime for which you were charged or convicted, the length and type of sentence you received, and how long has passed since you committed the act and/or completed your sentence.

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The key, however, is to translate the crime or conviction into Canadian law. Criminal law in Canada groups offences into two categories: those prosecuted by summary process, and those by indictment. An indictable offence is more serious. The distinction is very similar to that between misdemeanors and felonies in the U.S.A. Canadian immigration officers can ignore a single summary offence crime or conviction. However, if you have been convicted of more than one summary offence, or any indictable offence, you become inadmissible to Canada.

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome inadmissibility.

2. How can I tell if my offence is summary or indictable?

You or your lawyer will consult Canada’s Criminal Code, or other applicable federal legislation, to find the equivalent to your crime in Canadian law. This translation is important as it can be an influential factor in your ability to enter Canada. In the event the translation is to a hybrid crime, meaning that it is punishable by either summary or indictment, it is considered indictable for the purposes of Canadian immigration law.

3. I think I am criminally inadmissible to Canada. Are there any options to overcome this status?

The short answer is yes, the Canadian Government offers potential short- and long-term solutions named Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) and Criminal Rehabilitation.

The TRP is designed for people who are inadmissible and require temporary access into Canada. TRPs are typically granted to individuals who demonstrate compelling reasons for entry — that the benefits of their visit to Canada outweigh any risks.

The criminal rehabilitation application is available to those who are eligible for permanent clearance of past criminal history. If you have been convicted of a crime or crimes in a foreign country, and it has been more than five years since completing your sentence, you are likely eligible to apply for criminal rehabilitation in Canada.

4. I was recently arrested in the United States, am I able to travel to Canada?

Anyone that has been charged with an offence (with no prior criminal history) but has not yet been convicted can take steps to avoid becoming inadmissible to Canada. A Canadian immigration lawyer can draft a legal opinion letter with details concerning the person's charge and the lawyer’s legal conclusions on the situation. The purpose of the letter is to clarify the legal matter, identify risks and relevant Canadian law, and explain why the person should be deemed admissible to Canada.

5. How was the Canadian border officer aware of my past conviction when I attempted to enter Canada?

When Canadians attempt to enter the United States, their passport is linked to their RCMP criminal record. A similar linkage occurs for U.S. residents trying enter Canada from the United States. Upon entry to Canada, a U.S. citizen is required to present a U.S passport or travel document to an immigration officer for screening purposes. This person’s passport has a direct link to an FBI background record, where recent or past DUIs can appear. Even if your charge or conviction is from several decades ago, it can still appear on this criminal record and be held against your desire to enter the Country.

6. Do I need to hire an immigration lawyer?

Nobody needs to hire an immigration lawyer. Much like a doctor, there are times when you should probably see one and other times you might be fine without. Every person with a criminal record presents a unique situation. The Canadian government's decision on whether or not to allow you entry is a balance between national security and compassion.

A Canadian immigration attorney cannot guarantee that you will be rendered admissible to Canada, but they can help you understand how your criminal history translates into Canadian law. They can tell you whether or not your criminal history will prevent you from entering the country. If so, then a criminality specialist can explain your options for overcoming inadmissibility.

Click here to get a free consultation with the Law Firm of Campbell Cohen

© CIC News All Rights Reserved. Discover your Canadian immigration options at CanadaVisa.com.

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