How to work in Canada if you have a criminal record

Daniel Levy
Published: March 28, 2022

If you have a criminal record and do not address inadmissibility before you apply for a Canadian work permit, you risk being refused entry to Canada.

You may be able to overcome criminal inadmissibility depending on the crime, how long ago it happened, and how you have behaved since. In order to come to Canada with a criminal record, you will need to meet the legal terms to be deemed rehabilitated, or have a temporary resident permit or a legal opinion letter.

Whichever option ends up being the best for you, it is important to start the process well in advance of your intended travel to Canada. Here is some general information on ways to overcome inadmissibility to Canada.

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Legal Opinion Letter

Legal Opinion Letters are prepared by lawyers and they provide explanation to Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers why they should permit you entry. Your lawyer can explain facts that demonstrate to the Canadian government that you are deemed rehabilitated, or your offense was isolated or not serious, or there is no Canadian equivalent to your offense. You may also get one of these letters to support your temporary resident permit or rehabilitation application.

Temporary Resident Permit

Temporary Resident Permits (TRP) allow people with criminal records to enter Canada temporarily. This may be an option for you if it has been less than five years since the end of your sentence or you have a valid reason to enter Canada.

TRPs can be valid for up to three years. You need to submit a TRP application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) providing a compelling reason why you should be allowed to enter the country, and why the benefits to Canada of allowing you entry outweigh potential risks. US citizens and permanent residents can submit their TRP applications when they arrive at the Canadian border, or they can get pre-approval by submitting their application at a Canadian consulate. All other foreign nationals can submit their TRP application at a Canadian consulate. The application fee is $200 CAD.


Rehabilitation is a permanent way to overcome criminal inadmissibility to Canada. Once you are rehabilitated, your criminal record is no longer grounds to deny you entry as long as you do not commit any further offenses. There are two types of rehabilitation:

Individual rehabilitation is an option if at least five years have passed since the end of your sentence. The application fee is either $200 or $1,000, depending on the severity of your conviction. Your application needs to demonstrate you have been rehabilitated and will no longer conduct criminal acts. You can do this by providing evidence like demonstrating a stable lifestyle or showing that you have taken steps to improve your behaviour. It also helps if your offense was an isolated event. These applications can take about a year to process.

Deemed rehabilitation may apply if you were convicted for a less serious crime and at least 10 years have gone by since you completed your sentence. You will automatically be deemed rehabilitated due to the passage of time. Even if this applies to your case, you may still choose to get a Legal Opinion Letter in case you need to prove to a border officer that you should be allowed into Canada.

Schedule a Free Legal Consultation with the Cohen Immigration Law Firm

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