U.S. tourists: Your options if you are inadmissible to Canada
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic some 15 million U.S. tourists visited Canada each year.
While Canada is an open country, it does have strict rules that it enforces at its borders. You can be deemed inadmissible to Canada on the basis of a criminal conviction.
Fortunately, the Canadian government recognizes that those with a criminal record are capable of being rehabilitated and often times, the benefits to Canada's economy of welcoming such individuals outweigh the minimal risks they are likely to pose. If you are a U.S. tourist with a criminal record you are strongly encouraged to plan in advance to avoid any surprises at the Canadian border.
Here is an overview of the three main ways you can overcome inadmissibility to Canada.
Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)
If it has been under five years since the completion of your sentence you need to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) to be deemed admissible to Canada. TRPs are temporary waivers that can allow U.S. tourists that are otherwise inadmissible to visit Canada. TRPs can be valid for up to three years.
You need to provide a compelling reason to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to successfully obtain a TRP. You must demonstrate to IRCC that you will not be a threat to Canadian society. Preparing a well-prepared submission is crucial to successfully obtaining a TRP since the decision-making process can be subjective.
If you were convicted more than five years ago but less than 10 years ago, you may be eligible to submit an application for criminal rehabilitation.
Upon approval of the application you will be eligible to travel to Canada and you will no longer need to worry about your previous criminal record. You will be free to enter Canada in the future as long as you do not get another conviction.
You can also be deemed rehabilitated if it has been 10 years or more since you completed your sentence. The simple passage of time can allow you to enter Canada as long as you have a single, non-serious conviction on your record. On the other hand, you must apply for criminal rehabilitation if you have more than one conviction if you want to clear your record to be able to visit Canada.
Legal Opinion Letter
Obtaining a Legal Opinion Letter from a Canadian immigration lawyer is another option available to you if you are facing a charge but do not have a previous conviction. A charge alone does not mean you are inadmissible to Canada. However Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials have discretion to turn individuals with charges away at the Canadian border. A lawyer can write a letter explaining why your pending case should not make you inadmissible.
It is important to stress the importance of preparing ahead. You too can be among the millions of U.S. tourists welcomed by Canada each year as long as you take the necessary steps to confirm your admissibility to Canada.
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