Visiting Canada with a criminal record

Learn who Canada deems ineligible to visit

  • Visiting Canada if diagnosed with a mortal disease
  • How do you avoid being deemed a security risk?
  • What you need to know if you have a criminal record in entering or staying in Canada
  • The process of obtaining a visitor visa if you have a criminal record is full of uncertainties.

As a general rule, any event that is classified as a crime, and also in Canadian territory has the potential to render an individual criminally inadmissible to Canada. In some cases, it results from travelling with expired documents or failing to disclose this before crossing the border

With new changes and stricter policies, crossing the border difficulty has increased. This blog post can help you to know what offenses most travelers may face denial, as well as what permits or applications you can apply for.

Impaired Driving in the US (including driving on alcohol or drugs)

A criminal record can bar people from entering a country. Sentences that take into account intoxication on the consumption of alcohol or drugs will be considered inadmissible for Canada. Different designations are applicable depending on the circumstances of the infraction, and where the offence occurred.

In the United States, these offences include:

  • DUI (driving under the influence)
  • DWI (driving while impaired/intoxicated)
  • DWAI (driving while ability impaired)
  • DWUI (driving while under the influence)
  • OWI (operating while intoxicated)
  • OUI (operating under the influence)
  • OMVI (operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated)

Reckless Driving

Vehicle infractions in your home country could prevent you from entering Canada legally. Reckless driving is one category of immigrating that any province of the country considers grounds for banning admission—no matter if you are a driver or passenger.

Vehicle infractions in your home country could prevent you from entering Canada legally. Reckless driving is one category of immigrating that any province of the country considers grounds for banning admission—no matter if you are a driver or passenger.

Theft & Fraud

When travelling to Canada, many wonder if they will be able to cross the border when they have a criminal record.

In cases of theft, the severity of the crime will affect how you’re considered by Canadian immigration authorities. For example, theft under $5,000 is considered a non-serious criminality, while theft over this amount is considered “serious criminality”.

Canada is not as strict as some other countries are when it comes to an adult criminal records. Any theft charges could carry a few years in prison, though only if it falls into certain aggravating factors


Even a temperamental crime would be an assault charge many years ago. Canada has stricter penalties for all physical contact as pointed in this country’s penal code.

Visitors with criminal records can apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP). These permits allow visitors to stay in Canada as long as they comply with its conditions and are not convicted of a crime during their stay. This Paragraph discusses various mitigating or aggravating factors that affect the seriousness of an assault.

Technically, a criminal record would cause you inadmissibility to Canada, however, long-term residents who have spent 5 or more of the last 6 years in Canada may be eligible for rehabilitation.

Drug Offences

Those with serious drug-related convictions will likely find themselves to be inadmissible upon trying to cross over the Canadian border. There are several scenarios which can lead to this type of finding, including a conviction for production, purchase, consumption, or distribution.

Criminal background is a factor in determining entry to Canada. Entry requirements will depend on the severity of the crime, and how long ago the sentence was complete. Individuals with recent criminal records may be required to pay expensive application processing fees.

Denis, a 59-year-old Canadian man awaiting sentencing for drug possession, was denied entry to Canada because of his criminal record.

These can include:

  • Jail time
  • Probation
  • Fines
  • License suspension
  • Deportation

If you intend to visit Canada with a criminal record, know that the date of completion for your final sentence is what is considered for inadmissibility proceedings.

Who is Affected by Inadmissibility to Canada?

People with criminal records may be interested in a country to visit that doesn’t require an in-depth interview of the individual’s past. Canada offers visitors an “electronic visa,” which requires little more than providing their passport numbers and contact information, but doesn’t grant citizens the right to live and work within the country.

  • Performing artists
  • Airlines and their staff
  • People wishing to go on a hunting or fishing trip to Canada
  • People traveling to and from Alaska
  • People engaged in cross-border trade
  • People transiting through Canada
  • People who have committed a crime in Canada or have been charged with a crime in Canada.

Ways to Overcome Criminal Inadmissibility

The three pathways available for people with criminal offences are for a temporary or permanent basis. You can seek entry for not just Canada’s national interest, but you can also get clearance from the Canadian government based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, which is specifically for people who pose no threat to Canada’s national interest.

  1. Submit a Temporary Resident Permit Application
  2. Submit a Criminal Rehabilitation Application
  3. Get a Legal Opinion Letter

1. Submit a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) Application

To get information about Canadian immigration, TRPs, and criminal records, check out a blog post from Immigration Law Kanata.

If you’ve committed a criminal act, the amount of time you can stay in Canada is limited. A Temporary Resident Permit granted to visitors who intend to enter Canada only for a short duration allows them to stay up to three-years.

Who Should Apply for a TRP?

A temporary resident permit is necessary in the following situations

  • For those who have been convicted of a criminal offence outside of Canada that, if committed in Canada, is equivalent to an indictable offence punishable by a sentence of less than 10 years, you may be refused entry to Canada.
  • If you are convicted of a crime in another country that would be punished by a sentence less than 10 years in Canada, you may not be permitted to enter the country. When entering Canada with a record:
  • People can visit Canada with a criminal record as long as one of their crimes is deemed equivalent to two summary offences in Canada. You just need to submit an application along with relevant documents such as UK criminal record certificates, charge sheets, and crime-related sentencing minutes.

Offences and criminal convictions inside Canada are a major obstacle for visitors and PR

How to Apply for a Temporary Resident Permit

Canadian Consulate Applications

However, many people decide to visit Canada with a criminal record. If you apply for a TRP through a Canadian consulate, there is a significant processing time involved (typically around three months). However, it is considered to be the best approach to submitting temporary resident permit applications to Canadian immigration authorities.

The best way for someone to visit Canada with a criminal record is to apply through a consulate. Not only does this provide the greatest chance of success and involve an experienced immigration officer, but it also makes it easy for you to know whether or not you will be admitted.

If you have a crime blot on your record and want to visit Canada, you will need to apply for a temporary resident permit (TRP). This permit is issued that lets non-Canadians enter the country.

Port of Entry (POE) Applications

If you have a criminal record, there are ways to protect your rights while on vacation in Canada. POE applications will be processed immediately upon entry at Canadian borders or can be easily filled out online before arriving.

Though inadmissible, there are avenues for those who nonetheless have a need to visit Canada. Immigration visa officers take the need for entry against the health and security risks to the Canadian population into account. If an applicant can demonstrate justifying their entry, the officer may issue a temporary resident visa.

Trying to visit Canada but have a criminal record can be risky. Some people are willing to try because processing times can be very short with Canadian officials making the decision within minutes. If denied, those who want this pathway are not allowed to enter Canada until their application has been approved by a Canadian consulate.

2. Submit a Criminal Rehabilitation Application

After a certain number of years, those with criminal records can apply to have their background cleared, allowing them to visit Canada once again. Once accepted, you will receive a Canadian Criminal Rehabilitation document and “Temporary Resident Permit” on your first arrival into the country.

For back-to-back visits to Canada, there is an alternative to a criminal rehabilitation application in order to gain admissibility, the Temporary Resident Permit. A TRP is only eligible for one entry into Canada but can be extendable; if someone has a criminal history and wants closer access to their family back home, this may be the method employed.

Types of Criminal Rehabilitation

There are two forms of criminal rehabilitation that can resolve inadmissibility to Canada:

  • Individual Rehabilitation
  • Deemed Rehabilitation

In order to be eligible for criminal rehabilitation, the following conditions must be met:

  • You must have committed an act outside of Canada that would constitute an offence under the Canadian Criminal Code;
  • You must have been convicted of, or admitted to, committing the act;
  • Five years must have passed since the full sentence or sentences were completed. This phase includes jail time, fines, and probation.

Serious & Non-Serious Criminal Records

Canadian immigration knows the difference between contemptuous acts and innocuous ones. Offences are classified as serious or non-serious and the latter requires only temporary detention.

For Canadian residents and visitors, anyone who has engaged in serious criminality may be:

  • Convicted of an indictable offence punishable by a maximum sentence of at least ten years; or
  • Received a prison term of at least six months

Those found to have engaged in serious criminality outside Canada will have been convicted of an act that, if committed in Canada, would be equivalent to:

  • An indictable offence punishable by a maximum sentence of at least ten years; or
  • A hybrid offence punishable by a maximum sentence of at least ten years.

Criminal Rehabilitation Application Fees in Canada

Canada does not allow those convicted of criminality to visit the country. The processing fees for rehabilitation, which would help provide clearance to go near restricted zones, are $200 CAD for a few days and $1,000 CAD for serious criminality.

Canada processing times for visiting with a criminal record

The typical processing times are 6-12 months from the submission of your application.

3. Get a Legal Opinion Letter

Anyone coming to Canada who has had a criminal record will likely be found inadmissible. Offenders can try to get around this by obtaining a legal opinion letter addressed to the court hearing their case, preemptively proving that their stay wouldn’t disrupt public order or security.

Visiting Canada with a Criminal Record – This letter is a document that is drafted by a Canadian Immigration Attorney. In it, he or she refers to the relevant sections of Canadian law to explain the consequences in Canada immigration law for someone guilty of a criminal act.

The article has information about the consequences of convictions for different crimes on one’s ability to visit Canada. A person can use the guidelines to choose how to respond to charges and find out what sort of penalties segregation for any conviction will carry in regards to their travel.

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