Overcoming a cannabis conviction to enter Canada
In order to understand foreign cannabis convictions, you must determine whether they have an equivalent in Canadian law. Some foreign convictions that are no longer illegal in Canada, such as possession of limited amounts of cannabis, should not be a problem.
However, several foreign cannabis charges or convictions can render a person inadmissible to Canada. The most common are:
- Possession of more than 30 grams of dried cannabis (or equivalent in other forms)
- Driving under the influence (DUI) of cannabis
- The illegal sale or distribution of cannabis (serious criminality, punishable by up to 10 years in prison)
How to overcome inadmissibility
There are three main ways to overcome criminal admissibility if you are looking to travel to Canada:
- Submit a Temporary Resident Permit Application
- Submit a Criminal Rehabilitation Letter
- Legal Opinion Letter
Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)
A Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) is an option for an individual considered criminally inadmissible as it grants temporary access to Canada for a certain period of time. A TRP should only be used in situations where a traveler has a valid reason for entering Canada, such as for business purposes or an emergency. The benefits of their entry must outweigh any risks to Canadian society.
A TRP application can be granted for up to three years, depending on the reason of entry. A person can apply for a TRP at any point and does not require the completion of a criminal sentence. A TRP can allow one entry to Canada or permit multiple re-entries. Once in Canada, an individual with a TRP may apply to extend the duration of the permit.
Criminal Rehabilitation Application
The Canadian Government offers the opportunity to submit a criminal rehabilitation application to permanently clear your past criminal history for the purposes of entering Canada. The criminal rehabilitation application is a one-time solution that, unlike a TRP, does not require renewal. If an individual is granted approval for criminal rehabilitation, they are no longer considered inadmissible and would not require a TRP for entry into Canada.
In order be eligible for criminal rehabilitation, you must meet the following criteria:
- Must have committed an act outside of Canada that would be equivalent to an offence under the Canadian Criminal Code,
- Must have been convicted of or admitted to committing the act, and
- Five years must have passed since the sentence has been completed. This includes jail time, fines, community service or probation.
Legal Opinion Letter
A legal opinion letter is a document that a Canadian immigration lawyer prepares that contains details concerning a marijuana conviction or charge and the lawyer’s legal opinion on the situation. The letter would identify relevant Canadian law and suggest alternate infractions that would not render the individual inadmissible to Canada.
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