Published on April 15th, 2023 at 07:30am EDT


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Although Canada welcomes millions of visitors, workers, students and immigrants each year, each individual must meet admissibility requirements before being allowed to enter into the country.

If you are a foreign national who has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you may be considered criminally inadmissible to Canada. When determining an individual’s criminal inadmissibility, foreign convictions and arrests are equated to Canadian laws and standards and an equivalent is found under the Criminal Code of Canada.

If your offense is equivalent to a summary offense under Canadian law and it is your only criminal conviction, you may be considered admissible to Canada and will not require permission to enter into the country. However, if your offense is equivalent to an indictable offence, which is considered serious criminality, you may be considered inadmissible to Canada and will require permission to enter the country.

The three main ways to overcome criminal inadmissibility

The three options available to people who wish to come to Canada but must overcome criminal inadmissibility include:

  • Submitting a Temporary Resident Permit application
  • Submitting a Criminal Rehabilitation application
  • Legal Opinion Letter

A Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) grants temporary access to Canada for a certain period of time. A TRP can be granted for up to three years, depending on the reason of entry. A TRP is used in situations where a traveller has a valid reason for entering Canada and the benefits of their entry outweigh any risks to Canadian society. A person can apply for a TRP at any point and does not require the completion of a criminal sentence.

The following examples explain when a TRP application is necessary for entry into Canada:

  • A person has been convicted outside of Canada of a crime that, if committed in Canada, is equivalent to an indictable offence punishable by a sentence of less than 10 years.
  • A person has been convicted outside of Canada of a crime that would be equivalent to a hybrid offence punishable by a sentence of less than 10 years. A hybrid offence is one that can be prosecuted in Canada either by summary process or by indictment.
  • A person has been convicted of two or more crimes that, if committed in Canada, would be equivalent to two summary offences.

A Criminal Rehabilitation application can be submitted to the Canadian government to permanently clear your past criminal history for the purposes of entering the country. The benefit of this application is that is a one-time solution that does not require renewal. Once you receive approval for criminal rehabilitation, you are no longer considered inadmissible and would not require a TRP to enter Canada.

In order to be eligible for criminal rehabilitation, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Committed an act outside of Canada that would be equivalent to an offence under the Canadian Criminal Code;
  • Have been convicted or admitted to committing the act; and
  • Five years must have passed since the sentence has been completed, including jail times, fines, community service or probation.

Finally, if you have committed or been convicted of a crime, you can pre-emptively avoid being found inadmissible to Canada by submitting a legal opinion letter. This letter is a document drafted by a Canadian immigration lawyer and refers to relevant sections of Canadian law to explain consequences of a guilty verdict or finding that a person has committed a criminal act would have in Canadian immigration law. This information would help the authority decide how to respond to charges of crime and how different convictions and sentencing would affect your ability to enter Canada.

The effects of a conviction and resulting inadmissible could be serious for someone who’s employment entails a recurring need to enter into Canada or the individual has family in Canada that they can no longer visit.

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