Planning a winter vacation in Canada? What to do with a past criminal record

Matt Hendler, Michael Schwartz
Published: September 26, 2021

As the summer comes to an end, tourists from the U.S. and other countries are beginning to plan Canadian winter vacations or excursions. Canada is one of the best places to embrace the winter season. The activities are endless at most tourist destinations across the country. It is important to note that if you plan on travelling to Canada this winter with a criminal record, you may have an unpleasant surprise waiting at the border.

Across the country, many wintertime activities and festivities have also become an annual tradition for locals and an attraction for tourists. Planning a winter trip for yourself or for your family? Here are some of the most popular things to do in Canada during the winter season:

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Ottawa, Ontario: Skate on the Rideau Canal. Every winter, this 7.8km skate way becomes the largest rink in the world. When in operation, it is open 24 hours a day. Almost one million visitors enjoy this icecapade every year.

Whistler, British Columbia: Ski or snowboard at one of Canada’s most famous resorts. Located just a couple hours north of Vancouver, the endless winter activities welcome all tourists even if you are afraid of taking on the slopes.

Quebec City, Quebec: Stay at the world-famous ice hotel, which is built annually in Quebec City. The Hôtel de Glace is mostly made from ice and snow. Its rooms have blocks of ice as beds -don’t worry, though: mattresses and sleeping bags are provided.

Lake Louise, Alberta: Home of numerous winter activities such as dog sledding, skiing and snow shoeing and located two hours from Calgary. This is a popular summer spot that accommodates the winter traveller just as well.

Is Canada your pick for a winter vacation destination?

It is important to know that 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 criminal history can appear. If a border agent finds that you are inadmissible to Canada, you may be denied entry.

The Canadian government offers potential short- and long-term solutions to travelers with a criminal record. The first, a temporary fix, is called the Temporary Resident Permit (TRP). A TRP is designed for people who need temporary access into Canada. It may provide for a single entry to Canada, or for more than one. TRPs are typically granted to individuals who demonstrate compelling reasons for entry. Travellers with business and compassionate reasons would be more likely to qualify than people going on vacation. If you are wishing to travel to Canada for leisure purposes with a criminal record, it is typically advised to apply for criminal rehabilitation if you meet the requirements.

The second, a permanent solution, is known as Criminal Rehabilitation. A criminal rehabilitation application is for permanent clearance of criminal history. To apply for rehabilitation, it must be at least five years since you completed your sentence. The sentence here refers to any judicial result of your case which could include prison or probation time, payment of fines and community service or classes. Once an applicant is approved for Criminal Rehabilitation, they no longer require a Temporary Resident Permit.

Canada deals with someone's criminal history by translating the person’s foreign crime into the Canadian equivalent. This translation is very important when a person is interested in applying for Criminal Rehabilitation. The Canadian government will charge a specific processing fee based on if the criminal record is considered non-serious or serious criminality. The Government fee is $200 CAD for non-serious criminality and $1,000 CAD for serious criminality.

Legal advice can be beneficial to you even if you have not yet been convicted of a crime. The third solution, a legal opinion letter, can be helpful in unique situations such as traveling with a pending criminal charge. A Canadian immigration lawyer can explain by way of legal opinion any important facts in the pending case, and explain why you should not be considered inadmissible.

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