Donald Trump may now be inadmissible to enter Canada

Following a guilty verdict on 34 charges in his hush money case, 45th president of the United States (and current presidential candidate) Donald Trump may now be criminally inadmissible to enter Canada.

Trump’s case provides a prominent example that can be used to better understand how inadmissibility is determined for, and can be overcome by, those wishing to enter Canada.

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What is criminal inadmissibility?

Criminal inadmissibility is used to describe an individual who is not allowed to enter or stay in Canada for criminality reasons. If an individual has committed an offence outside Canada (that is recognized as an offence both in the country where the act took place, and in Canada)—they could be denied entry.

Temporary residents (those on a work/study permit, or with a visitor visa/electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), and applicants for permanent residence (PR) may be found inadmissible to enter Canada if:

  • They were convicted of an offence in Canada;
  • They were convicted of an offence outside Canada that is also considered an offence inside Canada; and/or
  • They committed an act outside Canada that is considered an offence in the place it was committed and is also considered an offence in Canada.

For example, if someone is convicted of one offence in their home country that would be deemed an “indictable offence” in Canada—comparable to felony in the United States—they could be considered criminally inadmissible.

However, not all convictions result in admissibility. For example, one single “summary conviction” (less serious crime) outside Canada would not make that person criminally inadmissible to enter Canada.

What can Donald Trump’s case teach us about criminal inadmissibility?

When an individual who has committed an offence abroad wants to enter Canada, the process of determining their criminal inadmissibility begins with an in-depth look at the foreign crime committed. Specifically, Canadian immigration authorities would assess:

  • The foreign statute under which the offence was (or will be) prosecuted;
  • The sentence imposed; and
  • The date sentence was (or will be) completed.

From here, one would look at the Canadian equivalent to the foreign offence, to better understand how the act would be treated in Canada.

How do Trump’s charges impact his admissibility to Canada?

Beyond doing an ‘equivalency’ analysis, Canadian immigration authorities would look into whether the foreign offence is classified as “serious” or “non-serious” in Canada. Crimes that hold maximum prison sentences of less than 10 years are considered non-serious crimes. These are often non-violent crimes like theft or fraud under $5,000 CAD. Contrastingly, serious crimes are punishable by prison sentences of 10 years or more—often these crimes involve bodily harm, physical damage, etc.

Findings within this stage are crucial to determining next steps to overcome potential inadmissibility.

Considering the “falsification of business records” charges brought against Trump, and the large amounts of money involved in these charges, it is likely that Trump’s crimes will be equated to serious criminality in Canada.

It is also important to note the discrepancy in processing fees for those with serious vs. non-serious criminal offences. Generally, applications to overcome inadmissibility for non-serious criminality carry processing fees of $229.77 CAD. In contrast, applications to overcome serious criminality carry processing fees of $1,148.87 CAD.

How can Donald Trump overcome his potential inadmissibility?

Perhaps the first step that Trump could take is requesting an opinion from an immigration lawyer in Canada. The lawyer would review the charges and convictions against him, and determine whether they will impact his admissibility to enter the country. Legal reviews or opinion letters can help aspiring newcomers better understand their options to enter Canada, despite their criminal records.

In Trump’s case, the legal opinion would point in the direction of inadmissibility. To enter the country in the immediate future, Trump would have one option given his convictions: applying for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP).

A TRP is an immigration document that grants entry to an individual who might otherwise be inadmissible—on the grounds of compelling circumstances. The TRP would temporarily and exceptionally grant the applicant entry to Canada, for anywhere from 1 day to 3 years.

An individual may submit their TRP application to the Canadian consulate in their home country. While this may be the “safer” option, in the sense that the decision is made before travelling to the Canadian border, it is also much slower. Visa-exempt travelers who can get to the Canada/US land border may apply for their TRP directly at the port of entry, and receive their final decision on the spot.

To learn more about TRPs, find our dedicated webpage here.

Down the line, Trump may have other options to overcome his inadmissibility.

For example, he may apply for criminal rehabilitation. This application would help him permanently overcome his criminal record––assuming no more charges and convictions are brought against him.

To qualify for criminal rehabilitation, he would have to:

  • Wait 5 years after the completion of his sentence before applying; and
  • Demonstrate that he has been rehabilitated and is no longer at risk of further criminality;

Demonstrating rehabilitation may include showing proof of stable lifestyle, community connections, social and vocational skills, etc.

Unlike the TRP application, which can be requested (by visa-exempt travelers) at the Canada/US land border, the criminal rehabilitation application must be submitted to the Canadian consulate in the applicant’s country of residence . It is important to note that individuals can pursue criminal rehabilitation, even in cases of serious criminality. To learn more about criminal rehabilitation, find our dedicated webpage here.

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