How to return to Canada after being ordered to leave

Michael Schwartz, Matt Hendler
Published: September 19, 2021

Canada can order non-citizens to leave the country by issuing removal orders. Some of the reasons for such orders can include criminal conduct and violation of Canadian immigration laws. If you’ve been subject to a removal order, you may need an Authorization to Return to Canada (ARC) to come back.

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Whether or not you require an ARC depends on several things. The most important are: what type of removal order you received, and if and when you complied with it. In any case, you must meet all other admissibility requirements.

There are actually three different kinds of removal orders. From least to most severe they are:

1. Departure Order

This is an order that you leave Canada by a certain deadline. It does not limit if or when you can return. If you comply with the removal order within the time period and verify your departure with a Canadian immigration officer upon leaving, then you do not need an ARC. But, if you leave Canada after 30 days or without confirming your departure, the departure order turns into a deportation order. This means it becomes more severe. In that case, you need an ARC.

2. Exclusion Order

This is an order that you leave Canada and that you stay away for at least twelve months afterwards. If you comply with the Exclusion Order within the deadline it sets and confirm your departure with Canadian authorities, you receive a Certificate of Departure. If you receive a Certificate of Departure and twelve months have passed since, you do not need an ARC. If you do not receive a Certificate of Departure or less than twelve months have passed, you need an ARC.

3. Deportation Order

If you received any deportation order, you are theoretically banned from Canada for life. This means you must get an ARC, no matter how you left and how much time has passed since.

If you need an ARC, you should not apply separately for it. Instead, you should deal with this matter in your general application to come to Canada. For example, include it with your request for a work permit. You cannot obtain an ARC at a Canadian border or from inside Canada, so you must apply before travelling.

If you need an ARC, you must pay a $400 CAD processing fee. You must also include a letter explaining why Canada should grant you an ARC. This document must be in English or French and typed—or written in block letters in black pen. If you did not leave by your deadline or report your departure, you should explain why. The government may request you attend an interview or provide more documents, it will advise you in writing. Any documents you send that are not in English or French must include a certified translation. You can find here where to submit your ARC. If you are applying for an ARC from the USA, you can apply to the Canadian consulate in either Los Angeles or New York City.

Canada decides ARCs using several factors. These include:

  • why the removal order was issued;
  • the likelihood of you repeating the conduct that caused Canada to issue to issue the removal order;
  • how long has passed since the conduct, removal order, or when you left Canada; and
  • your conduct since leaving Canada.

The reason you want to return to Canada. In general, the more pressing the reason (work or family commitments over vacation) the greater likelihood one has of receiving an ARC.

Immigration officers have considerable discretion in ARC decisions. There is no guarantee you will receive one. ARCs can also take a long time to process, and there is no set time-frame. You should therefore present a well-organized, thorough, and convincing argument.

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