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If you have been convicted of a crime, then you may be  considered inadmissible to Canada.

This means that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will not let you into Canada when you arrive at the port of entry, or, in the case of a visa application or electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), the CBSA won’t even let you travel to Canada.

You can even be refused entry to Canada if you have not been charged with a crime, but you have been arrested.

But, all is not lost! Let’s look at some ways you may be able to overcome inadmissibility to Canada due to a conviction or arrest.

Can you go to Canada with a DUI?

The most common criminal cause of being refused entry to Canada is a driving under the influence charge, commonly known as a DUI.

A DUI charge in many places, especially the United States and Australia, may be considered a minor charge such as a misdemeanor and could carry only a small fine as punishment. But, depending on when the DUI occurred, it could be considered serious criminality in Canada. Even if your DUI is recent, there may still be a way for you to temporarily overcome your DUI and enter Canada.

What can you do if you’re criminally inadmissible to Canada?

If you have an arrest or criminal conviction in your past, then there are two things you can do in order to enter Canada:

  1. You can apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) 
  2. You can apply for Criminal Rehabilitation

What is a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) for Canada?

A Temporary Resident Permit is a temporary waiver of your inadmissibility – it’s permission to enter Canada despite your arrest or criminal conviction.

If you are an American citizen and you need to enter Canada urgently, you can apply for a TRP at the port of entry (land border, airport, or seaport). If you plan to apply for a TRP at the Canadian border, your application has to contain information about why your application is urgent, such as a work trip or the illness or recent death of a family member in Canada.

A TRP could be valid for only a single entry or for multiple entries over a period of time. The length of validity of the TRP given depends on the discretion of the officer making the decision, and the reason for the application.

Where can you apply for a TRP for Canada?  

TRP applications submitted by citizens of all other countries than the US must be submitted through the Canadian Embassy in the country where the applicant lives. For applicants residing in a country without a Canadian Embassy, it may be possible to apply through the Canadian Embassy or other diplomatic mission, such as a consulate, situated in a neighbouring country. For details on where to apply for a TRP, please visit this page.

What is criminal rehabilitation for Canadian immigration?

If at least five years have passed since your sentence was completed, then you can apply for Criminal Rehabilitation, which is a permanent solution to your inadmissibility to Canada.

If you want to apply for either temporary residence or permanent residence in Canada and you have a criminal past (remember: even an arrest may count!), then you must be approved for Criminal Rehabilitation before your work permit, study permit, visitor visa, or permanent residence application is submitted.

To be eligible for Criminal Rehabilitation, at least five years must have passed since all aspects of your sentence were completed. This includes any incarceration, fines paid, probation, community service, or any other sentencing.

When considering a criminal rehabilitation application, officers consider whether the applicant is likely to reoffend, or to be a danger to public safety in Canada.

US citizens can also request to be deemed rehabilitated at the Canadian port of entry if enough time has passed since the completion of their sentence:

  • 10 years for an offence which is considered serious, or
  • 5 years for two or more offences which are considered less serious.

So, if you have a criminal inadmissibility issue making your move to Canada tricky — or even if you think you may have a criminal inadmissibility issue but are not sure — the good news is that there may be ways to overcome your inadmissibility. The key is knowing what counts as inadmissibility, and then choosing the path with the highest chance of overcoming that inadmissibility and being welcomed into Canada.

Cassandra Fultz is Managing Partner at Doherty Fultz Immigration, a Toronto-based regulated Canadian immigration consultancy. You can book a consultation with Doherty Fultz Immigration here.

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