Three ways to overcome a cannabis conviction before coming to Canada

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: December 20, 2023

Inadmissibility to Canada, for all crimes including cannabis-related convictions, depends on how a foreign conviction equates to the Canadian criminal code.

In other words, if a foreign national is deemed criminally inadmissible to Canada, it is because the crime they committed in another country equates to a crime under Canadian law that would render the individual unable to enter this country.

In the case of some foreign convictions for cannabis-related offences, foreign nationals may still be admissible to Canada because such crimes are no longer illegal in Canada. One example is the possession of cannabis (to an extent).

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Despite some new Canadian laws that make foreign nationals with certain cannabis-related convictions admissible to Canada, a few common cannabis-related offences can still bar a non-Canadian from entering the country, including:

  • Possession (over 30 grams) of dried cannabis
  • Possession of cannabis (in non-dried forms) equal to more than 30 grams
  • Cannabis-related Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges
  • Illegal sale or distribution of cannabis

Is there any way to enter Canada if I have committed an inadmissible offence related to cannabis?

Foreign nationals with cannabis-related (and other) convictions can still travel to Canada by overcoming their inadmissibility through a:

Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)

Foreign nationals may be granted temporary access to Canada with a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), which can be used by individuals with a valid reason to come to this country. With a valid reason to travel to Canada – including for business or an emergency – foreign nationals can use a TRP to overcome a cannabis conviction if they prove that the benefits of their entry outweigh any potential risks to Canadians and the country.

Key information about TRPs

The following includes some key information foreign nationals would benefit from understanding about a TRP.

  • TRPs can be granted with a validity period of up to three years (depending on the reason for entry to Canada)
  • TRP applicants do not need to first complete a criminal sentence to be eligible for this permit
  • TRPs can either be single-entry or multi-entry permits
  • TRP applicants may apply to extend the validity of their permit once inside Canada

Legal Opinion Letter

Canadian immigration lawyers can help foreign nationals prepare a legal opinion letter. Outlining details related to the relevant convictions for which an individual would be barred from entering Canada, the lawyer would include their opinion on the matter and, while identifying risks and relevant Canadian laws, the lawyer would provide reasoning to justify why the subject of the letter should be deemed admissible to Canada.

Criminal Rehabilitation Application

Criminal rehabilitation applications are designed to allow successful applicants a way to enter Canada after permanently clearing their past criminal history. In other words, rehabilitation applicants who are approved by the Canadian government are no longer deemed inadmissible to Canada. These applications do not require renewal but do include a set of eligibility criteria, which are outlined as follows. Criminal rehabilitation applicants:

  • Must have committed an offence outside of Canada that would make them inadmissible to Canada under the Canadian Criminal Code
  • Must have either been convicted of the aforementioned offence or admitted to committing it
  • Must let five years pass since the completion of any consequences related to the commission of the offence (jail time, fines, community service or probation)

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