Can a Felon Go to Canada 2018-01-12T14:44:51+00:00
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Sometimes a released convict just wants a fresh start away from the society they grew up in. Moving overseas is often appealing but difficult and expensive. But moving to Canada? Logistically, it is far simpler; just grab a U-Haul and head north! Easy, right? But wait—we are talking about felons here, and felons, as we know, often have restrictions on what they can and cannot do. So this article will address the question, can a felon go to Canada?

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Can a Felon Go to Canada?

Certainly your best bet when considering this option is to schedule an appointment with a Canadian immigration officer. This person can answer your questions and evaluate your circumstances. But for now, let’s touch on the basics, so you’ll have an overview of what to expect…

List of Crimes Which Might Prevent a Felon from Entering Canada

If you are looking for a temporary resident permit, and it’s been less than five years since you finished your felony sentence, AND if you can show a good reason for wanting to visit Canada, then, in general you won’t have any issues. But…

The immigration officer will look at your Canadian application for a visa, and check if you have ever been convicted of any of the following:

  1. Larceny or theft
  2. Assault and battery
  3. Murder or manslaughter
  4. Drunk driving (DUI or DWI), if more than one occurrence or if there was any damage to personal property or individuals
  5. Driving under the influence of drugs
  6. Distribution or possession of narcotics or other controlled substances

The Criminal Code of Canada offers a full listing and details on each.

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DUI/DWI and Canada

A quick word on drinking and driving—Canada considered this to be a ‘hybrid offense.’ It may or may not be indictable, based on the circumstances, so every case is different. In the USA a DUI/DWI can be either a felony or a misdemeanor.

But one thing is for certain; they do retain a prejudice against allowing anyone which such a conviction on their criminal record from coming into their country, regardless of whether the person even intends to drive in Canada or not. They don’t care if a person states they don’t ‘intend’ to drive, because there’s always the potential that the person might. We are, after all, dealing with ex-cons, and sometimes trust issues can be a problem. But we’ll talk more about that below in our rehabilitation section! But long story short, if you have a DUI or DWI, be upfront about it and don’t try to cover it during the application. These things always come out in the end.

Note: if you were convicted of one of the above listed felonies, but it occurred to you being 18 years old, it’s possible they will overlook the restriction and allow you to enter. Otherwise, you could be facing a huge snag in your trip! So that is why they do offer a process known as rehabilitation…which we’ll explain now!

The Effect of Rehabilitation on Moving to Canada

Other factors the Canadian immigration officer will consider when determining the eligibility of a felon who wishes to visit or immigrate will be based on the following factors.

  • the length of time since the incident
  • any demonstrated proof of rehabilitation
  • holding down a steady job
  • furthering one’s education
  • volunteering for community service or other local programs
  • presenting letters of reference from persons of authority, etc.

But for consideration of being categorized as ‘rehabilitated,’ one must follow the Government of Canada’s formal process.You may view a complete list of rehabilitation evaluation criteria, but here’s a sample, to read carefully:

‘If you were convicted of an offence outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would be an indictable offence punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of less than ten years:

  • You are deemed rehabilitated: at least ten years after completion of the sentence imposed.
  • You are eligible to apply for rehabilitation: five (5) years after completion of the sentence imposed.

Here’s another, to give a contrast and comparison:

“If you committed an offence outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would be an indictable offence punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of less than ten years.”

  • You are deemed rehabilitated: at least ten years after commission of the offence.
  • You are eligible to apply for rehabilitation: five (5) years after commission of the offence.
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So as you can see, Canada is very specific about how they break down their definitions of rehabilitation and thus whether a convicted felon will be allowed in or not. But it is the applicant’s job to make the case to the immigration officer and show proof of application for rehabilitation, if needed.

You have to prove it, don’t expect them to do the legwork! In fact it is best to apply in advance, so that you can simply show the officer that everything has already been cleared and you are ready for takeoff!

You can find information about overcoming criminal convictions and rehabilitation consideration on the Government of Canada’s website.

More on Canadian Rehabilitation, Immigration and Applying with a Felony Record

Naturally, if you already applied and were approved, or if you’ve been given a pardon (or ‘record suspension,’ as they call it now), or a temporary resident permit already, then you must let the officer know this. Convince them; tell your story and show the documents you have to persuade them. You must be proactive; you’re trying to enter a foreign country, and it is their job to carefully screen every applicant. What is the benefit to allowing you to enter and what is the potential risk? When it comes to felons, there is always an inherent risk, at least in their view.


Also remember, this term ‘rehabilitation’ only pertains to crimes once committed outside of Canada, not within its boundaries. Once you have been dubbed ‘rehabilitated,’ the Government of Canada extends the trust to you that you will not commit another crime, or at least that they feel it is very unlikely. So it is important to live up to that expectation, but also to prove to them that you are fully worthy of being trusted in the first place.

Applying for Rehabilitation and Canadian Visa

You can either apply for rehabilitation status at the same time as you apply for the visa (be it a visitor visa, student, or work visa), or you might opt to apply separately. This could be a better bet, if you are able to apply for rehabilitation in advance. That way, you could potentially know if you are approved or not prior to going through the process of visa application. If you aren’t approved, then it’s a waste of time to go any further. But the two applications can be done at the same time, if necessary.

Keep in mind, if applying simultaneously, submit to a local Visa Application Center:

But if applying separately, send the rehabilitation application to a regional office, via mail or other courier delivery service. Oh, and don’t expect a speedy decision; it can take a year for the process to go finalize! Another reason to apply separately, if possible.

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Good Luck

We hope this article helps answers your question “Can a Felon Go to Canada.” Unfortunately, in many cases, no, they can’t…but if the answer is no, there are options available to pursue to gain rehabilitation status, thus turning that no into a yes!

Felony Expungement – In a number of states it is possible to have your felony conviction either expunged or sealed. Imagine having your record swiped clean! Learn more here.