Applying for Canadian permanent residence with a criminal record

Michael Schwartz, Matt Hendler
Updated: Aug, 21, 2023
  • Published: October 3, 2021

Canada wants new permanent residents (PRs) — in fact, more than a million of them. Nearly 60 per cent of these new arrivals will come to Canada as skilled workers. Express Entry is the main way that Canada processes skilled worker applications.

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) released its most recent Immigration Levels Plan on October 30, 2020. This plan calls for over:

  • 400,000 new PRs in 2020;
  • 410,000 in 2021; and
  • 420,000 in 2022.

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There are several ways to become a Canadian PR. You might be living abroad, or already be in Canada. You may go from having no status in Canada straight to PR. Or, if you are an international student or temporary foreign worker, you might convert temporary status to permanent residence. You might qualify as an economic immigrant, family member, or refugee. As well, you may be a federal selection or a provincial nominee.

It is important to note that a criminal record can exclude you from applying for permanent residence. Fortunately, there is a way to overcome this obstacle if you believe you may be criminally inadmissible to Canada.

If you want to apply for Canadian permanent residence but have a prior conviction, you must be considered rehabilitated in order to receive PR status. Applicants with a criminal record wishing to stay in Canada may have the option to pursue a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) instead of Criminal Rehabilitation (CR). However, a TRP must be renewed, whereas successful rehabilitation permanently resolves the problem of criminal inadmissibility for future stays in Canada.

The Canadian government offers the CR application for those who can show a major, positive, change since being convicted of a crime. This is a process that clears your record for the purpose of entering Canada, whether as a visitor or permanent resident. Once approved, CR is permanent, as long as you do not commit another offence. Being criminally rehabilitated can ease any worry about being turned away at the border or being denied permanent residence because of a criminal record. Many offences, including theft, driving under the influence (DUI), and assault can pose issues and result in a person being considered inadmissible to Canada.

Criminal Rehabilitation is only available for convictions outside of Canada. If you were convicted of an offence in Canada, depending on the circumstances, you may have to seek a pardon from the Parole Board of Canada.

In order to be eligible for CR, at least five years must have passed since you completed your sentence. A sentence can include prison or probation time, payment of fines and any required community service or classes. If you have an unresolved case, or a warrant, you are not eligible to apply.

When someone is interested in applying for Criminal Rehabilitation, the translation of the person’s criminal history into the Canadian equivalent has significant importance. This process requires a close reading of Canada’s Criminal Code in relation to the laws of the country in which the person was convicted. The Canadian government charges a processing fee for CR. The amount of this charge depends on if the criminal record is based on non-serious or serious criminality. The cost is $200 CAD for non-serious criminality and $1,000 CAD for serious criminality.

Criminal inadmissibility is a serious matter, especially when a person is interested in immigrating to Canada. It can prevent you from realizing your Canadian dream. However, there is a pathway to becoming admissible. Your eligibility and conditions will depend on a variety of factors.

If you think you may be eligible for criminal rehabilitation, a good first step to take is to read more about criminality issues in Canada to learn how to address your unique situation the right way.

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

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