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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 I Enter Canada with a Drug Conviction?

If a US citizen has a drug-related felony conviction in their past, they are very likely considered "criminally inadmissible" to Canada which can result in them being denied entry. Even if the conviction was only a misdemeanor, it will often still equate to a potentially serious crime in Canada and put the individual at substantial risk of a border refusal. The Canadian border has full access to the FBI's NCIC database, and can consequently flag a visitor with a criminal history for drugs as soon as they arrive.

The following drug crimes can prevent a US citizen from being able to visit Canada:

  • Illicit drug possession (even if the quantity was small)
  • Possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell
  • Possession of prescription medication without a prescription
  • Sale of a controlled substance
  • Drug trafficking
  • Conspiracy

Admissibility to Canada is determined by the seriousness of the equivalent crime north of the border. Possession of a controlled substance (PCS) is a hybrid offense in Canada, which means there is potential for it to be prosecuted as a serious crime. According to Canada's immigration rules, this allows border authorities to treat such convictions as a serious crime, which is why even a misdemeanor for drugs can result in an American getting refused admittance. Canadian border officers do not have to assume a person is innocent until proven guilty, so pending drug charges can be problematic even if the person has not yet gone to court. Likewise, a past arrest for illicit possession of drugs in the United States can prevent a person from crossing the border into Canada, even if the individual was never convicted, unless he or she has acceptable proof of a favorable outcome.

It is possible to travel to Canada with a drug-related criminal history by obtaining special permission from the Canadian Government. Criminal Rehabilitation can be a permanent fix to a person's inadmissibility to Canada and is available if all sentencing was completed a minimum of five years ago. A Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) is a short-term waiver that can allow an American to enter Canada with a misdemeanor or felony for drugs, but requires an applicant to have an important reason for traveling such as work or business. Both applications are extremely complex, especially if a person has multiple drug charges or convictions in their past.

Questions about entering Canada with a drug-related misdemeanor or felony? Contact our Canadian immigration law firm today for a free consultation!

How to Travel to Canada with a Drug History in USA

The best way to get into Canada with a criminal record for drug possession is usually to obtain Rehabilitation or a TRP in advance of travel. Once approved for Criminal Rehab, for example, an American citizen could go to Canada as often as they want without their past drug crimes put them at risk of an entrance denial. If a person has an important trip to Canada and is not able to obtain Criminal Rehabilitation beforehand, a Temporary Resident Permit can be requested.

When applying for special permission to enter Canada with a misdemeanor or felony drug conviction, the Government of Canada will evaluate the offense in detail including which illegal substance was involved, how much of the drug was found, were any firearms seized with the narcotics, and was there evidence of selling or intent to sell the drugs. Adjudicators will also want to know how the offense equates to Canadian law, if the applicant has any prior drug arrests or convictions, and if the person received drug treatment after the incident. Consequently, a felon that was busted distributing cocaine or caught up in a federal indictment for conspiracy will be viewed differently than a person that was found in possession of a small amount of cocaine residue.

Going to Canada After Drug Court

As drug policy in the United States evolves, an increasing number of non-violent drug charges for possession of a controlled substance (PCS) end up getting dismissed via drug court. Similar to a diversion or deferment program, drug court is a judicially supervised process that takes a public health approach to helping an offender with a substance use issue or drug addiction. This typically involves a sentencing alternative of drug treatment combined with supervision with the goal of helping the person quit drugs and avoid a permanent criminal record. Upon successful completion of drug court, the offense may no longer render a person criminally inadmissible according to Canadian law, but a Canada immigration lawyer should always be consulted before attempting to travel there.

Traveling to Canada with Cannabis-Related Convictions

Cannabis is now legal in Canada, but only possession of less than 30 grams for personal usage. Possession of a large quantity of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, or selling cannabis are all still illegal in Canada. Manufacturing cannabis, or getting caught working in or operating a grow-op or illegal dispensary can also lead to problems when crossing the border. Black market cannabis offenses in states where weed is legal can also stop a foreign citizen from getting into Canada.

What Substances Does Canada Consider Illegal?

There are a wide variety of drug possession crimes in the USA that can be equivalent to a possibly serious crime in Canada. Examples include possession of cocaine, fentanyl, DMT, GHB, hallucinogens such as shrooms (psilocybin), heroin, ketamine, LSD, MDMA, ecstasy, mescaline, and meth / methamphetamine. Most Schedule 1 controlled substances in the US are also considered illegal drugs in Canada. Prescription opioids, such as pain killers like OxyContin (Oxy), Percocet, and Dilaudid, are also illegal to possess without a prescription. If a drug is listed as a Schedule 2 controlled substance in the United States, only individuals prescribed the drug by a medical doctor will typically be allowed to possess it in Canada. Selling prescription drugs without a license is also a major crime in Canada, and even charges for illegal possession of Codeine, Xanax, or Adderall can be problematic at the border.

Whether police officers found a small baggie of drugs on your person, drug residue on your cellphone during a traffic stop, or you were in a house with drugs when the cops searched it, a criminal history in the United States for possessing or selling drugs can block you from visiting Canada. Many inadmissible Americans will simply avoid traveling to the country due to the cost of applying for Criminal Rehabilitation and volume of paperwork involved. This being said, if you live near the border, have family in Canada, or need to go to Ontario, Quebec, BC, Alberta, or another Canadian province for work or business purposes, applying for an entry waiver or pardon might make sense.

Drug-related offenses in the United States occasionally involve controversial law-enforcement tactics ranging from civil forfeiture to wire taps. At the end of the day, however, if a person pleads guilty to a crime, or is convicted of a crime in the court of law, the Government of Canada will often consider the offense equivalent to a conviction in their country regardless of the specific details. In such a case, a foreign national could get denied entry by border agents unless approved for Criminal Rehabilitation or granted a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP).

Convicted of drug possession in the past and want to visit Canada? Contact our team now for a free consultation!

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