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TRP Canada

Canada immigration lawyer focused on helping Americans apply for a Temporary Resident Permit so they can travel to Canada with a criminal record. We offer free comprehensive consultations (unlike many businesses who demand a retainer before assessing your options).

Can You Enter Canada with a Criminal Record?

Canada has one of the toughest borders in the world. According to their border rules, any foreign national with a past conviction that equates to a potentially indictable crime could be denied entry. This can be a huge headache for Americans with a criminal record because most misdemeanors and almost all felonies are considered potentially excludable crimes under this policy.

When a traveler has a criminal record from the United States, border officers can look at the maximum punishment of the equivalent crime north of the border and treat the offense as such. This makes it extremely hard to get into Canada with a criminal record as even a single misdemeanor can be treated as serious criminality by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Many crimes in Canada are considered "hybrid" offenses and can therefore be prosecuted by indictment (similar to a felony) in certain cases. Even if this is rare and the crime is commonly prosecuted summarily, Canada's immigration laws essentially evaluate the worst case scenario. A DUI or DWI, for example, may only be a misdemeanor in USA but it equates to a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail and therefore is viewed similar to a felony by authorities at the border.

In order to travel to Canada with a criminal record, a US citizen can request special permission to cross the border. This involves applying for Criminal Rehabilitation (CR) or a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) in order to persuade the Canadian Government you are not a threat. CR is a permanent fix, but is only available once all sentencing has been finished for a minimum of five years. A TRP can be applied for at any time, and can provide a person with a criminal record access to the country for up to three years, but requires a strong reason for travel such as work or business.

Wondering if your criminal record will prevent you from entering Canada? Contact us today for a FREE consultation!

So I Can Travel to Canada with a Criminal Record?

It is possible for an American citizen to get into Canada with a criminal record by obtaining approval for a TRP or Rehabilitation. If a foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of criminality and attempts to enter Canada without a TRP or Rehab, however, CBSA agents may deny their admittance. Both a Criminal Rehabilitation application and a Temporary Resident Permit application require a lot of information and supporting documentation. Consequently, some Americans decide to avoid Canada rather dealing with a bunch of paperwork.

How Does Canada Know I Have a Criminal Record?

The FBI shares their National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database with Canada's national police force. Consequently, the Canadian border can instantly detect any visitor with a criminal record from America as soon as the traveler hands over their ID. Whether you fly into a Canadian airport, arrive at a land border by vehicle, or take a cruise into Canada, if you have a criminal history in the US you should expect to get red-flagged by CBSA officers upon arrival.

Determining Admissibility

Since the majority of misdemeanors from America equate to hybrid offenses in Canada, even a relatively minor criminal record can render a US citizen criminally inadmissible according to Canadian immigration law. If the equivalent crime north of the border is a hybrid offense, CBSA agents may decide to refuse admission. For this reason, a single misdemeanor for DUI, reckless driving, assault, battery, theft, larceny, possession of a controlled substance, trespassing, vandalism, or domestic violence could put a traveler at substantial risk of being denied entry.

Concerned your criminal record might block your admission into Canada? Phone us now for a no-cost evaluation.

Can You Go to Canada with a Criminal Record That Is Old?

If a conviction from USA is considered a serious crime above the border, it will often render the offender criminally inadmissible to Canada for life even if the person has no other arrests in their past. For example, one felony for possession of a controlled substance with intent can put a person at risk of being denied admittance even 20 or 30 years later. Likewise, if a person has multiple convictions in their past they will usually be considered criminally inadmissible according to Canadian law regardless of how long they have had a clean record. For example: even if you have been sober for decades, a couple misdemeanors for drinking and driving from the 1980s or 1990s could be a problem at the border.

If a US citizen has a single conviction that is not viewed as a serious crime by Canada, and all sentencing including probation was finished more than ten years ago, they might be considered "Deemed Rehabilitated by virtue of time" and assumed safe. This is only possible if the person has no other convictions of concern. For example: an individual with one misdemeanor for petty theft from 15 years ago and no other arrests or charges might be allowed into Canada. Before attempting to enter Canada with an old criminal record, however, a qualified lawyer should be consulted.

A visitor may be required to prove their eligibility for Deemed Rehabilitation, which is not always easy. For a theft-related misdemeanor, border agents may want to see evidence the value of goods involved was less than $5,000. For a domestic violence misdemeanor, border agents might want proof it would not equate to assault causing bodily injury. For a drug crime, agents will often want to verify there was no intent to sell involved. The traveler may also need to prove they completed all court-imposed sentencing including payment of any fines or restitution and any probation more than ten years ago. In some cases, a fingerprint-based FBI background check may be required to prove the person truly has no other arrest record. Consequently, a Legal Opinion Letter prepared by a qualified attorney is often used to show eligibility for Deemed Rehabilitation.

Serious Criminal Record vs. Non-Serious Criminal Record

Automatic Deemed Rehabilitation after ten years is only possible for a conviction that is not considered serious criminality by Canada. While a misdemeanor for shoplifting might qualify, a felony for grand theft or grand larceny likely will not even if it was an isolated incident ages ago. For drug convictions, anything beyond simple possession will often render the person criminally inadmissible to Canada forever. In general, any felony conviction related to the sale, distribution, or trafficking of controlled or illegal drugs, can cause trouble at the border even decades later.

Drug-related conspiracy, especially if prosecuted federally, can be extremely concerning to border officers, and offenses that involved a large enough quantity of cocaine or pills to be considered possession with intent to sell can also be difficult to fix. Simple possession of marijuana for personal use is now legal in Canada, so a criminal record for cannabis is often viewed much differently than other drug crimes. Assault or battery involving a weapon or causing bodily injury will typically be considered serious criminality. While many charges for domestic violence, harassment, or threatening behavior are not classified as serious, if the charge was aggravated it certainly can be.

Can I Visit Canada with a Criminal Record That Has Been Expunged?

Even if a criminal record has been sealed or expunged in the United States, it will typically still be visible to the CBSA. Sealing or expunging your record will often clear it from a state-level database, which is the one queried for most employment-related background checks. Getting your record sealed or expunged does not usually erase the FBI's NCIC database, however, which is the one Canada pulls their USA criminal record information from. In other words, when you present your passport to border security, they can likely still see your record even after an expungement.

In most cases, sealing your record will not make it any easier to gain admission to Canada. Expungements on the other hand can potentially impact admissibility, as they may equate to a Record Suspension north of the border. For example, if someone expunges their criminal record in California via a 1203.4 dismissal, it is possible it may get treated as a non-conviction under Canadian law. If all sentencing including probation was terminated more than five years ago, a non-serious criminal record may be overlooked by Canada if it has been dismissed or expunged in a manner that equates favorably.

In cases of serious criminality, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) may only consider an expungement to equate to a Record Suspension once it has been at least ten years from completion of the full sentence. Consequently, an expunged felony record could be a problem when trying to visit Canada even if it is not recent. An experienced professional should always be consulted before attempting to enter Canada with a criminal record that has been expunged.

Travel to Canada with Arrest Record

If the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) discovers a traveler has criminal charges in their past, they may not be willing to let the person enter unless he or she can prove a "favorable" outcome to each charge. Consequently, if an individual has an arrest record in the USA but was never convicted of a crime, they should bring evidence of this fact when traveling.

Visiting Canada with Pending Charge

If it is possible a person will end up convicted of a crime, CBSA agents can turn the individual away at the border. For this reason, a pending criminal case can be problematic when trying to visit Canada. Even if your criminal defense lawyer thinks you will likely end up being found not guilty, until you have proof all charges were dropped or dismissed it may be difficult to get across the border. If someone cannot avoid Canada while fighting their criminal charges, they can always apply for a Temporary Resident Permit to request special permission to enter the nation.

Can You Move to Canada with a Criminal Record?

If a foreign national is considered criminally inadmissible to Canada, not only can they be stopped at the border but any immigration benefit they apply for can be denied. For example: if you apply for Permanent Residency (PR) via Express Entry or spousal sponsorship but have a criminal record, your PR application will likely get rejected unless you have achieved Rehabilitation. Likewise, inadmissibility can prevent a person from obtaining a Work Visa or Study Visa. Whether you plan to take a quick holiday to Canada, hope to visit the country frequently in the future, or plan to move there some day, if you have a misdemeanor or felony record your dream may only be possible if you apply for a waiver or pardon.

Questions about how to get into Canada with criminal record? Phone our legal team now!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
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