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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 Visit Canada with a Misdemeanor?

Any US resident or US citizen that has been arrested or convicted of a misdemeanor may be criminally inadmissible to Canada. When it comes to crossing the border, it is not the severity of the crime in the United States that counts, it is the Canadian equivalent of the offense that determines a person's eligibility. For this reason, many relatively minor offenses such as misdemeanor DUI or even reckless driving can result in a person being denied entry to Canada.

If the equivalent law in Canada is an indictable offense or hybrid offense, then even if the crime happened years ago a foreign national may not be permitted to enter Canada unless they have received special permission. Basically, if the equivalent crime in Canada could be considered potentially serious (even if it usually is not), border authorities will treat the offense as a serious crime regardless of it only being a misdemeanor in the United States.

There are two methods to get permission to cross the border with a misdemeanor, the short term solution of a Canada Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), or the long term solution of Criminal Rehabilitation. A Canada TRP can allow an individual to visit Canada with a misdemeanor on their criminal record for a fixed period of time. Temporary Resident Permits can be issued for as long as three years, and in an emergency can even be applied for at a Port of Entry potentially enabling a person fast entry into the country. The Criminal Rehabilitation process can take as long as 12 months, but once an American with a misdemeanor is approved their admissibility to the nation is permanently fixed. In order to be eligible to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation, however, all sentencing including any probation or parole must have ended at least five years ago.

Going to Canada but have a misdemeanor on your criminal record? Contact us now for a free consultation.

Deemed Rehabilitation

Individuals with a single non-violent criminal misdemeanor on their record and no other charges may be eligible for entry into Canada once again ten years after completion of their full sentence. People with a felony conviction or several misdemeanors may never be deemed rehabilitated by virtue of time. Only those with one misdemeanor that is not considered a serious crime in Canada are eligible. USA misdemeanor convictions that involved violence, weapons, or significant property damage may be ineligible. It is important to note that a person is only considered rehabilitated by the passage of time ten years after they finish their sentence, which includes payment of any fines or restitution, completion of any required courses, reinstatement of driver's license (if applicable), and termination of probation. It is common for people to mistakenly think they are allowed to go to Canada ten years after the date of the actual offense, as opposed to the date all sentencing was finished. This can, unfortunately, lead to them being refused entry at the border.

In December 2018, Canada implemented tough new DUI laws that make impaired driving a serious crime punishable by as much as a decade in jail. As a result, Americans with a single misdemeanor DWI may no longer be allowed back into the country even after ten years without first obtaining special permission. Other misdemeanor convictions that can cause a US citizen to be banned from Canada for life include misdemeanor assault, misdemeanor battery, misdemeanor domestic violence, misdemeanor leaving the scene of an accident, and misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance.

Can I Enter Canada with a Misdemeanor?

The only way you can cross the border into Canada with a misdemeanor that renders you inadmissible without a significant risk of being denied admittance is by earning Criminal Rehabilitation or a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP). Otherwise, even a single alcohol-related driving conviction such as DWI, DUI, DWAI, OVI, or OWI can render you excluded from Canada. Even drunk driving pled down to a wet reckless driving or careless driving conviction can result in a denial of entry at the border. Drugged driving (DUID or DUI drugs) can also make a person ineligible for admittance into Canada. Other misdemeanor convictions that can get you barred from crossing the border include assault, disorderly conduct, mischief, resisting arrest, disturbing the peace, possession of a controlled substance, petty theft, larceny, possession of stolen property, and unlawful possession of a weapon.

Whether it is a misdemeanor drug charge or a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, crossing the border may not be possible without first assuring the Government of Canada you are not going to commit any crimes while in the country. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor for possession of marijuana, the offense may not equate to a crime in Canada if the quantity of the drug was less than 30 grams and it was for personal use with no intent to sell. In such cases, however, a visitor is responsible to prove their admissibility if border agents see their misdemeanor charge and challenge their eligibility for entry.

Crossing Border After Misdemeanor Arrest

Canada's border does not exercise a presumption of innocence regarding foreign nationals with arrests, which means that Americans can be instantly deemed inadmissible as soon as they are arrested for a misdemeanor such as drunk driving. If you have an open trial pending, you may require special government permission in order to be permitted entry regardless of the fact that you are still technically innocent of the charge since the court has yet to reach a verdict. This also means that people enrolled in a diversion program, or any other system involving a deferment of guilt, can require a Canada Temporary Resident Permit to get into the country until they have finished the program which can take years.

How Many Years After Arrest Can You Go Back to Canada?

After ten years from the date you completed your full sentence including probation, you may be eligible to return to Canada if you only have a single misdemeanor conviction that is not considered a serious crime in Canada. Misdemeanors that involve a weapon or harm to others can ban the offender for life if considered serious criminality north of the border, so some Americans with a misdemeanor will never be allowed to enter Canada unless they file special paperwork. Prove of admissibility under Canadian law should always be brought to the border, as a misdemeanor charge or conviction in the United States can cause a traveler to get instantly flagged by security officers.

Many people incorrectly start counting from the day of their arrest or the day of their misdemeanor conviction, but the clock only starts ticking towards Deemed Rehabilitation once a person has finished their entire sentence. Individuals are also only eligible for rehabilitation by the passage of time if they have a single misdemeanor on their criminal record that would be punishable in Canada by less than a maximum of ten years imprisonment. If you have a misdemeanor conviction that Canada considers potentially serious criminality, such as a DUI or DWI, you could be denied entry at the border even after ten years. Americans with two misdemeanors (or more) or a felony conviction can also be ineligible to visit Canada even if they have had a clean record for decades.

How Does Canada Know I Have a Misdemeanor?

Canada and the USA share criminal database information, allowing the Canadian border to see the criminal record of all American visitors. If the misdemeanor charge or conviction happened in the United States, you can more or less guarantee the FBI shared it with Canada. Consequently, when an American arrives at the Canadian border and hands over his or her passport, agents can immediately red flag the individual because of their past misdemeanor.

Class A Misdemeanors vs. Class D Misdemeanors

For the purposes of immigration, Canada does not look at the level of misdemeanor a person was found guilty of in the court of law. Instead, Canada determines an individual's admissibility by the Canadian equivalent of their crime, which means that a class A misdemeanor is not necessarily treated any different than a class B misdemeanor, class C misdemeanor, or class D misdemeanor. Even if the charge was originally a felony but was reduced to a misdemeanor via plea agreement, it is the equivalent crime in Canada that determines the severity of the offense at the border.

Can I Travel to Canada with Misdemeanor Record?

Any foreign national with a criminal record, including a misdemeanor for driving drunk, may be turned away at the border unless they have entry permission. Even a wet or dry reckless driving incident can result in a border refusal when flying into Canada. In general, misdemeanors for speeding will not necessarily render an American criminally inadmissible to Canada unless they resulted in a reckless or dangerous driving conviction or similar crime. If an offense equates to a speeding ticket in Canada it should not be an issue, but if a person's driving potentially endangered others the offense could equate to "dangerous operation" in Canada which is a hybrid crime that can be serious.

Although it is generally much easier to get approved for a Temporary Resident Permit when you only have a single misdemeanor on your criminal record as opposed to a felony conviction, both types of offenses can cause issues when crossing the border. For example: both a misdemeanor assault conviction and a felony assault conviction can render an American criminally inadmissible to Canada, but if the individual applies for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or Rehab the likelihood of success will generally be higher with a misdemeanor. Even if an applicant only has one misdemeanor, however, a mistake in their TRP or Canada Criminal Rehabilitation application can still prevent it from getting approved so it is always extremely important to follow the instructions perfectly.

Misdemeanor Entry into Canada

A commonly asked question is "will Canada bar me because of a misdemeanor record?" The Canadian border does not necessarily care whether or not the crime was a misdemeanor or felony; they are primarily concerned about what the Canadian equivalent crime is. For this reason, you can be denied entry for many misdemeanors such as drunk driving simply because the equivalent crime in Canada is a hybrid or indictable offense, as opposed to the lesser summary offense. It also does not matter if you have any intention of driving while in the country, or will only be passing through Canada briefly such as a flight layover or a drive from California to Alaska. Even if you have a misdemeanor traffic ticket or have pled a DUI down to a lesser offense such as reckless driving, careless driving, or negligent driving, you can still be rejected by border officials.

Going to Canada with misdemeanor? Phone our Canadian immigration law firm today for a free consultation.

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