Visiting Canada for a concert or music festival this summer? How to overcome your criminal record

Daniel Levy
Published: May 13, 2022

Canada has re-opened its borders and economy following restrictions that were put in place at the start of the pandemic.

As such, fully vaccinated tourists are welcome to visit the country. They will look to visit friends and family as well as enjoy the sights and sounds Canada has to offer after the Canadian border was largely shut to tourists between March 2020 and summer 2021.

One major reason tourists visit Canada over the summer is to attend the variety of concerts and music festivals the country has to offer.

Before making plans to visit Canada, you must be mindful if you have a criminal record, even if it is a minor offense. Canadian border officials uphold the law and this includes turning visitors away on the basis of their criminal record. Fortunately, Canadian law provides flexibility to foreign nationals with a criminal record so long as there is compelling evidence the visitor does not pose a threat to the Canadian public. The following is an overview of the three courses of action you may be able to pursue to be eligible to visit Canada this summer.

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Temporary Resident Permits

A Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) is the first option available to those seeking entry to Canada. TRPs are a temporary option, and are usually only valid for the length of the applicant's visit to Canada. When you submit your TRP application, you need to provide an explanation as to why you are looking to visit Canada. The Canadian consulate or border official that reviews your application will then consider whether the benefits of your visit outweigh the potential risks to Canadian society. Among the things they will consider include the number of offenses you have committed, the nature of the offenses, and the duration that has elapsed since the offenses.

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you can submit your TRP application at a Canadian port of entry. Your application will be processed immediately and the Canadian border officer will make a decision on the spot as to whether to allow you into Canada for the duration of your trip.

Criminal Rehabilitation

If it has been between five and ten years since you completed your sentence, you could be eligible to apply for criminal rehabilitation. If your application is approved, your slate will be wiped clean and you will be able to enter Canada. You will no longer have challenges visiting Canada in the future so long as you do not commit another offense. If you are looking to enter Canada in the short run but are also eligible to apply for criminal rehabilitation, you may want to also apply for a TRP as well. The reason for this is it usually takes longer for the Canadian government to process a criminal rehabilitation application, whereas a TRP application is usually processed more quickly, and immediately for U.S. citizens and permanent residents who apply at the Canadian border.

If it has been ten or more years since you completed your sentence, you may be deemed rehabilitated due to the passage of time. You may be able to benefit from this if you only have a single non-serious conviction on your record. If you have more than one conviction, you must apply for criminal rehabilitation.

Legal Opinion Letter

Your third option is to get a Legal Opinion Letter from a Canadian immigration lawyer. This option can be combined with the aforementioned options. Here, a lawyer will write a letter explaining to Canadian border officials why you should be allowed to visit Canada. This is also a beneficial option if you have a pending charge but have not been convicted.

The key messages to stress are that Canada looks forward to welcoming tourists this summer including the many looking to attend concerts and music festivals. It is imperative, however, you make adequate preparations in advance so you do not get turned away at the border due to your previous conviction.

Schedule a Free Consultation with the Cohen Immigration Law Firm

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