Canadian and US Immigration Lawyer Andy Semotiuk: Most people assume, without question, that just about anyone can enter Canada. This is not true. The Canadian Customs and Immigration Officers have ultimate authority to permit or deny anyone entry to Canada.
That said, while no one has an automatic right to enter Canada, most people without a criminal record will be allowed entry. In this discussion, we’ll talk about what happens if you do have a criminal record.
What if I have a criminal conviction?
If you have been charged or convicted of any crime, you may be prohibited from entering Canada to visit, work, study or immigrate.
In general, people are considered to be inadmissible to Canada due to past criminal activity if they were convicted of an offence in Canada, or were convicted of an offence outside of Canada that is considered a crime in Canada. In order to enter Canada in the future, these people need to obtain a “Temporary Resident Permit or Approval of Rehabilitation” at a Canadian consulate or embassy.
When can I be deemed rehabilitated?
You may be deemed rehabilitated if at least 10 years have passed since the completion of your sentence. For example, if you were convicted of drunk driving, it must be at least 10 years since your full driving privileges were restored.
To be eligible you must usually only have one conviction. The conviction must be of a less serious nature, which in Canada would have been punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of fewer than 10 years.
You may be deemed rehabilitated at a port of entry without submitting an application or paying any fee. However, if you are not certain that you are deemed rehabilitated, or would prefer to be deemed rehabilitated before your planned trip to Canada, you may apply for rehabilitation through our office. You must apply well in advance of your trip, as routine applications can take six months to process.If you do meet the requirements to be deemed rehabilitated, the consulate will send you a letter to that effect. If not, and you are eligible to apply for permanent rehabilitation, the consulate will consider your application for rehabilitation.When and how do I apply for rehabilitation?
You may apply for rehabilitation if at least five years have passed since the completion of the sentence imposed for your crime. For example, if you were convicted of driving under the influence, it must be at least five years since your full driving privileges were restored.
You may apply for permanent rehabilitation through our office, but you must apply well in advance of your planned trip to Canada. Routine applications can take six months to process. Non-routine applications can take up to two years to process. There is no guarantee of success for these applications.
What if I was convicted as a juvenile?
In Canada, a juvenile offender is someone who is 12 years of age or older but less than 18 years of age. If you were convicted for an act committed when you were under 18 years of age, it is possible that you are not criminally inadmissible. You can contact us to look into this for you.
What is a temporary resident permit?
If you are not deemed rehabilitated, are not yet eligible for rehabilitation, or you are not eligible for a pardon in Canada, you may apply for a temporary resident permit. If justified by compelling circumstances, foreign nationals who are inadmissible to Canada, including people who have a criminal conviction, may be issued a temporary resident permit allowing them to enter or remain in Canada.