Entering Canada With a Felony

Last updated: 29 June 2021

how to enter canada with a felony

If you try to enter Canada with a felony conviction on your criminal record, you could be deemed “criminally inadmissible to Canada,” and denied entry at the Canadian border.

The Canadian Government offers potential solutions to criminal inadmissibility issues, in the form of the Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) and the criminal rehabilitation process.

For either application, individuals with felony convictions may encounter more scrutiny during the review process, and would benefit from the assistance of an attorney.

The Campbell Cohen Immigration Law Firm can assist in your efforts to enter Canada. Simply complete our contact form and one of our experts will reach out to schedule a free consultation with you. 


Table of Contents


Overview

Any U.S Citizen or permanent resident that has a felony conviction on their criminal record may be deemed inadmissible to Canada for the purposes of immigrating, or even if they’re merely coming to Canada to visit. 

In some cases, individuals with felony convictions may never be granted access to immigrate or visit Canada, and risk being denied entry to the country even decades post-conviction. Canadian immigration officers have full access to all the criminal record databases in the United States, so anyone who has been convicted of a felony would likely be stopped on their way into Canada. Those with more recent offenses on record, or who are in the process of serving a sentence, would likely encounter greater issues when attempting to enter.

Two options you can pursue are a Temporary Resident Permit or Criminal Rehabilitation.

Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) Applications

A temporary resident permit may be issued to individuals who would otherwise be inadmissible to Canada because they were convicted of a crime, permitting them to enter or stay in the country, where justified by compelling circumstances.

A Canadian TRP grants legal entry to Canada for a certain period and can be applied for at any point. Unlike criminal rehabilitation, a TRP is not subject to a certain time frame in relation to the completion of the sentence, meaning that an individual can be granted a TRP while still serving a portion of his or her sentence, in certain circumstances.

For individuals who have been convicted of a serious offence, such as a felony, the odds of obtaining a TRP can be significantly less, especially while still serving a sentence.

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To apply for a TRP, you will need to submit an application with supporting documents explaining the reason for your criminal inadmissibility and why your entry into Canada may be justified. In the event a serious crime appears on record, you may be required to supply additional information to satisfy the Canadian Government.

After you or your immigration lawyer have compiled all the required Canadian immigration documents to complete a TRP application, you must then submit it to the Canadian government for consideration.

If you are an American citizen or have permanent resident status in the United States, you can submit your TRP application at a Canadian consulate or any port of entry (land, sea or air).

Canadian Consulate Applications

Although applying for a TRP through a Canadian consulate involves significant processing time (3-6 months), it is considered to be the best approach to submitting temporary resident permit applications to Canadian immigration authorities.

A decision will be made by an experienced immigration officer who understands the various reasons why your entry could be justified.

Port of Entry Applications

Applications for a TRP at a port of entry are available to foreign nationals with a criminal record that have made last-minute travel plans. Port of entry applications are processed immediately at any location where a passport is required to enter the country, such as airports, land crossings or sea entry points.

Applying at a port of entry has the advantage of potentially fast approval, however, applicants have no guarantee that they will be able to enter the country, and could be denied entry to Canada by border services officials. Applicants must be able to demonstrate that their entry into Canada is justified.

A Canadian immigration officer will consider the inadmissible person's need to enter Canada and weigh it against their own determination as to the health and security risks posed by the applicant vis-a-vis the Canadian population.

If denied, applicants will not be allowed to enter Canada until they have received an approval from a Canadian consulate. If you are from a visa-exempt country, your TRP application will need to be based on the guidelines set out by your country, as the application form may vary from nation to nation.

Government Application Fee

For each temporary resident permit application submitted, a fee of $200 CAD applies.

Criminal Rehabilitation

Aside from the TRP, the Canadian government also offers an application for criminal rehabilitation to those who are inadmissible to the country. If you have been unable to enter Canada in the past, a Canadian customs agent may suggest a criminal rehabilitation application as a method to eliminate future denials.

If you have been convicted of a felony charge in a foreign country and enough time has passed (i.e. more than five years) since you completed your sentence, you are likely eligible to apply for criminal rehabilitation in Canada.

If your application is successful and you are “deemed rehabilitated,” you will be provided with a certificate of rehabilitation and allowed to cross the border freely. A certificate of rehabilitation is a permanent document that will allow you to go to Canada at any point in the future.

Once an applicant is approved for criminal rehabilitation, they no longer require a temporary resident permit.

The most crucial consideration of the application is establishing the equivalent offence in Canada for the purposes of your criminal rehabilitation. The government of Canada distinguishes between convictions resulting in a sentence of less than 10 years, and convictions resulting in a sentence of more than 10 years, the latter of which is termed “serious criminality.”

Applying for Criminal Rehabilitation with a Felony Conviction

Individuals with a past felony offense are subject to more scrutiny during the review process of an application. These applications can also be subject to higher processing costs from the Canadian government.

Persons convicted of a crime that would result in a prison sentence of 10 years or more in Canada fall into the category of serious criminality. Individuals with serious criminality must apply for criminal rehabilitation to enter Canada, no matter how much time that has elapsed since completing their sentence. The decisions of these applications are highly subjective, so they are made at the discretion of Canadian immigration officials.

How Long Will It Take to Process my Criminal Rehabilitation Application?

Processing times range from 6 to 12 months.

Government Application Fee

  • For each criminal rehabilitation application submitted with non-serious criminality, such as a misdemeanor, a fee of $200 CAD applies.

  • For each criminal rehabilitation application submitted with serious criminality, a fee of $1,000 CAD applies.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have been arrested or accused of a felony crime, you may be criminally inadmissible to Canada even though you have not yet been convicted. Even with no prior criminal history, an immigration officer does not require to presume innocence and can use discretion accordingly. Unless a person has proof of a favorable settlement or no conviction result, the Canadian border may refuse them entry if a misdemeanor or felony arrest appears on their record.

In almost all circumstances, a felony conviction can result in criminal inadmissibility to Canada. For a felon to overcome inadmissibility, they must apply for either a Temporary Resident Permit or Criminal Rehabilitation. Even if you hold a valid passport from the US or elsewhere, a felony will likely result in inadmissibility.

There are many felonies that can render you inadmissible to Canada, the most common being: domestic violence, fraud, possession of controlled substance, burglary, intent to sell/ distribute, conspiracy, theft, arson, sexual assault, manslaughter, trafficking, tax evasion, robbery, vandalism, money laundering, assault with a weapon

When an individual has a serious crime on record when translated to the corresponding Canadian regulation, they cannot be deemed rehabilitated 10 years after completion of sentence. In order to overcome inadmissibility after a felony conviction, an application for criminal rehabilitation must be submitted to a Canadian consulate. The Canadian Government charges $1000 CAD to process a criminal rehabilitation application with serious criminality.

No matter the conviction on record, if you are criminally inadmissible to Canada you may submit a TRP application. In the case with a past felony, the Canadian government will process and judge the application with more caution due to the nature of crime(s) on record. Individuals with serious offenses are deemed higher risk upon entry to Canada. If it has been more than 5 years since completing your sentence, the criminal rehabilitation application may be a more advantageous route to permanently resolve inadmissibility.


About Campbell Cohen

Campbell Cohen is one of Canada's leading immigration law firms. We have over 45 years of experience and feature a team of over 60 Canadian immigration attorneys, paralegals, and other dedicated professionals.

Campbell Cohen uses its expertise to help clients overcome inadmissibility issues. Our team of inadmissibility lawyers and professionals will work to understand your situation and then submit the strongest possible application to Canadian immigration authorities.

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