Frequently Asked Questions on Inadmissibility to Canada

Julia Hornstein
Published: August 14, 2022

Before entering Canada, the country has admissibility requirements that each foreign national must meet. Such requirements include passing a criminal background check and undergoing medical examinations.

If you are a foreign national who has been arrested or convicted of a criminal offence, you may be considered criminally inadmissible to Canada. Foreign convictions and arrests are compared to Canadian laws and standards when determining an individual’s criminal inadmissibility.

What an individual must do to overcome inadmissibility will depend on the classification of the offence (serious versus non-serious) and the time that has elapsed since the completion of a sentence (includes probation, fines, etc.).

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The following provides answers to frequently asked questions about inadmissibility to Canada.

1) What does inadmissible mean?

When someone is deemed inadmissible, they are not allowed to enter or stay in Canada because of a criminal record or because they have certain medical conditions.

2) Can I travel to Canada with a criminal record?

The general rule is that you cannot travel to Canada with a criminal record. However, you may become admissible to Canada if you are deemed rehabilitated. You may also be allowed to travel to Canada if you apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or if you apply and are accepted for criminal rehabilitation.

3) What does it mean to be deemed rehabilitated and how do I qualify?

Being rehabilitated removes the grounds of criminal inadmissibility. Depending on the type and number of convictions, as well as how much time has passed since the conviction, you may be automatically deemed rehabilitated and will be considered admissible to Canada even with a previous criminal record.

4) What is a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)?

A TRP is a document that allows someone who is criminally or medically inadmissible to enter Canada for temporary period. A TRP is given in situations where a traveler has a valid reason for entering Canada and the benefits of their entry outweigh any risks to Canadian society.

It is important to note that a TRP can be granted for up to three years, depending on the reasons for entry, and does not require the completion of a criminal sentence.

5) I have a dismissed charge and no convictions. Can I travel to Canada?

In general, if you have been charged with an offence which was then dismissed, you are not considered to be inadmissible to Canada.

6) What is an indictable offence?

An indictable offence usually refers to more serious offences in the Canadian Criminal code and results in greater penalties than summary offences. While most felonies in the United States are equivalent to indictable offences in Canada, many misdemeanor offences are also considered indictable offences in Canada. A thorough review of the foreign law must be done to determine the equivalent offence under Canadian law.

7) What is a summary offence?

A summary offence usually refers to minor offences in the Canadian Criminal code. While most summary offences in Canada are equivalent to misdemeanors in the United States, this is not always the case. A thorough review of the foreign law must be done to determine the equivalent offence under Canadian law.

8) What is a hybrid offence?

A hybrid offence is a criminal offence that can be prosecuted as an indictable offence or summary conviction. Hybrid offences are treated as indictable offences for immigration purposes.

9) Does my drunk driving offence from the U.S. require me to obtain a TRP for entry to Canada?

Canada has strict border crossing laws. A past arrest or conviction for a DUI in the United States can render someone inadmissible. Depending on the time of arrest and completion of sentencing, you may require a TRP for temporary entry in Canada.

10) Can I move to/work in Canada with a DUI?

In most cases, an individual who has a DUI would be considered inadmissible to Canada for 10 years after the completion of the sentence. However, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency in Canada once you have cleared your inadmissibility via the criminal rehabilitation application. You can apply for criminal rehabilitation once it has been at least five years since the completion of your sentence.

If you want to work in Canada with a DUI, you may also face inadmissibility issues. When applying for a work permit, you must also apply for a TRP. If you want a more long term solution, you may apply for criminal rehabilitation, which permanently removes your inadmissibility to Canada.

11) Can I apply for Canadian permanent residence if I have a criminal record?

If you have a criminal record and want to apply to be a Canadian permanent resident, you must apply for criminal rehabilitation.

12) What is criminal rehabilitation? Who is eligible to apply for criminal rehabilitation?

Criminal rehabilitation is a permanent waiver that will remove an individual’s criminal inadmissibility to Canada. You may be eligible for criminal rehabilitation if you can demonstrate that more than five years have passed since you have completed all aspects of your sentence, including the payment of fines, completion of probation, etc.

13) Can I travel to Canada with cannabis?

Even though possession and consumption of cannabis for recreational purposes is legal in Canada, you cannot enter the country with it.

14) Can I enter Canada with a cannabis conviction?

A prior, foreign conviction involving cannabis can render you inadmissible to Canada. The key to understand a foreign conviction is to determine whether there is an equivalent and what that equivalent is under Canadian law. Foreign cannabis convictions that are no longer illegal in Canada should not pose a problem.

Some of the most common charges that will render you inadmissible to Canada are:

  • possession of more than 30 grams of dried cannabis (or equivalent in other forms);
  • driving under the influence of cannabis; or
  • the illegal sale and distribution of cannabis,

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