Inadmissibility: Transit Through Canada

Last updated: 28 July 2022

Even if only in transit through Canada, criminal inadmissibility can still pose problems to travelers who are planning to visit.

Due to the fact that most flight routes through Canada entail only a transient, short term stay in the country, one might not expect that Canadian inadmissibility issues might have an impact on such a trip. It is crucial to understand that immigration officers at all Canadian borders have access to criminal history reports and can use discretion when reviewing an individual’s criminal record and reason for entering Canada.

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Unfortunately, as intuitive as this expectation is, problems relating to inadmissibility can occur for individuals seeking to transit through Canada. This is because to catch a connecting flight at one of Canada’s airports, travelers are often required to pass through Canadian customs. When this is the case, in the eyes of Canadian border authorities, there is no difference between entering Canada to transit through the country and entering Canada to stay.

In both situations, immigration officers must ensure that the traveler does not pose a security risk to Canada. Therefore, the standard rules of Canadian inadmissibility apply. Because of this, even if the final destination is not on Canadian soil, many trips have been cut short as a result of the traveler being found inadmissible to Canada.

Going on a Cruise Trip? Plan Ahead

There are many Canadian coastal cities that are common docking locations for some of the most popular cruise liners in North America. With exciting landscapes and attractions throughout the country, most cruise travelers intend on departing from a cruise ship in order to explore these lively locations. Unfortunately, cruise liners and travel package companies neglect to inform travelers that being denied entry to Canada due to a criminal record is a common occurrence. If one of the following cities is on your itinerary, and you believe you are/may be inadmissible to Canada, consulting with a Canadian immigration lawyer can be beneficial:

  • Vancouver
  • Victoria
  • Montreal
  • Halifax
  • St. John’s

In the case of cruise liners that depart from Canada, if you are found to be inadmissible by an immigration officer you may be denied access to the country. Even if your intent is to go from the airport or land border directly to the departure port, you can be denied entry by a border agent. Missing your ships departure due to a criminal inadmissibility issue would likely result in no refund from the cruise line and end your vacation plans early. It is also important to note, if your cruise ends at a Canadian port and you are deemed to be criminally inadmissible, you would likely be required to leave Canada immediately via the first available flight at your own cost.

Ways to Overcome Inadmissibility for the Purpose of Transit through Canada

1) Submit a Temporary Resident Permit Application

If you are a foreign national who has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you may be considered criminally inadmissible to Canada. A Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) is a solution that can grant temporary access to someone who is currently inadmissible to Canada.

A TRP application should only be submitted for significant travel and can be granted from the duration of a stay up to three years, depending on the reasons for entry. The duration of the TRP may be extended from inside Canada.

A TRP grants legal entry to Canada for a certain amount of time. An individual can apply for a TRP at any point. Unlike criminal rehabilitation, a TRP is not subject to a certain time frame in relation to the completion of the sentence. In fact, an individual can be granted a TRP while still serving a portion of his or her sentence, in certain circumstances.

2) Submit a Criminal Rehabilitation Application

Criminal rehabilitation is an application offered by the Canadian Government to those who are eligible for permanent clearance of past criminal history - for the purposes of entering Canada.

If an individual receives an approval for criminal rehabilitation, they are no longer considered inadmissible and would not require a TRP for entry. The criminal rehabilitation application is a one-time solution that, unlike a TRP, never requires renewal.

In order to be eligible for criminal rehabilitation:

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

The most crucial consideration is understanding the equivalent offence in Canada. What is important is the nature and gravity of the offence, as per Canada’s Criminal Code. Canadian immigration authorities distinguish criminal offences based on serious versus non-serious criminality. An experienced Canadian immigration lawyer can be valuable when finding a Canadian law equivalent.

3) Legal Opinion Letter

A legal opinion letter can be drafted by an experienced Canadian immigration lawyer to support your entry into Canada. They will outline the facts of your situation and explain to Canadian immigration authorities why you should not be considered inadmissible. 

About Cohen Immigration Law

Cohen Immigration Law 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.

Cohen Immigration Law 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. was founded in 1994 as the online presence of Cohen Immigration Law. Since then, CanadaVisa has grown into one of the world's most trusted resources on immigration to Canada. Please connect with us so we can support your inadmissibility needs.

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