Visiting Canada this summer if you have a criminal record
Individuals who have a criminal record may be at risk of being found criminally inadmissible to Canada—something which can deny them a visitor visa and entry into the country.
However, those with a criminal record needn’t lose hope, as the government of Canada offers a few pathways to overcome criminal inadmissibility.
Temporary Resident Permit
A Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) is a short-term solution for those with a criminal history who wish to visit Canada. Eligibility for a TRP is based on an applicant’s ability to demonstrate to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that the benefit of their trip outweighs the risks.
TRPs are a pathway available to those seeking to temporary come to Canada. The process for approval is often faster than applying for criminal rehabilitation (more on this later). Many applicants choose to apply for a TRP and criminal rehabilitation simultaneously.
Criminal rehabilitation is a permanent solution to inadmissibility. If Canada approves an application for criminal rehabilitation, the applicant’s criminal record will no longer be a hinderance to entering Canada—as long as they do not commit another crime.
At least five years must have passed from the completion of a visitor’s most recent sentence, before they are eligible to apply for rehabilitation.
The processing fee that someone pays for their criminal rehabilitation depends on the severity of the crime committed. Fees can range from $200 CAD (for cases of non-serious criminality) to $1000 CAD for cases of serious criminality.
Visitors to Canada with a criminal record can also be deemed rehabilitated. If more than 10 years have passed since a visitor was convicted of a non-serious crime (and no other crime was committed in that time), they may be deemed rehabilitated.
Importantly this is not a process that one applies for, but an automatic process that takes place at the discretion of a Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer.
It is encouraged to confirm one’s deemed rehabilitation before travelling, as visitors can be turned away at the border to the discretion of a CBSA officer. For this reason, many people choose to consult with an immigration lawyer before their trip, to support their travel and gain peace of mind—for example, a lawyer may be able to write a legal opinion letter to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings between visitors and CBSA officers.
Legal Opinion Letter
Legal Opinion Letters can be drafted by a Canadian immigration lawyer and includes details regarding a visitors charge and the lawyer’s legal analysis of the situation. This kind of letter explains the legal matter, identifies risks and cites relevant Canadian law—ultimately explaining why a visitor should be deemed admissible to Canada.
Legal Opinion Letters can also be used to support applications for a TRP or Rehabilitation application.
Although Canada maintains strict rules regarding criminality, there are important reasons to promote tourism. According to Statistics Canada, in just the third quarter of 2022, tourism added $19.5 billion CAD to the Canadian economy, additionally generating 463,000 new jobs in the industry during that time.
Understanding your options to overcome criminal inadmissibility can help ensure a smooth journey and entry to Canada.