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Question: Can I go to Canada with a Felony Conviction and/or criminal record?

Quick Answer: No, when crossing the Canadian border you will be denied entry and considered inadmissible. There are two exceptions to this law that will allow felons to enter Canada. You must either have TRP (Temporary Resident Permit) or a Certificate of Criminal Rehabilitation.

In the article below you can learn how to obtain both.

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Can a felon go to Canada? Can you travel to Canada with a criminal record? Answered

Certainly your best option when you are considering travel to Canada with a felony record 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.

What it means to be inadmissible to Canada

When you try entering Canada from the US, either by vehicle, on foot or at an airport and you have a felony record you will be stooped immediately by Canadian authorities and told to go back to the USA. Canada has instant access to all US criminal records and they check every single person trying to enter the country.

If you are caught trying to enter Canada, and you will be, with a criminal record you will be told that you are “inadmissible.” There are a multitude of reasons that someone entering Canada can be inadmissible. You don’t have to have a felony conviction, DUI/DWI is considered to be a very serious crime in Canada.

You can learn more “about inadmissibility” on Canada’s Immigration Page.

Reasons you could be inadmissible to Canada

There are numerous reasons that someone will be denied entry into Canada. Obviously a criminal record is one but other can include the follow;

  • Security – If the Canadian immigration officer thinks that you pose any type of security risk you be considered inadmissible. Any act of violence you have participated in during your life can be held against you.
  • Crimes – DUI/DWI, Felonies and misdemeanors will keep you from entering Canada.
  • Medical  – Canada only wants healthy people in their country do to the cost of socialized healthcare. If you have any illnesses you will most likely be denied entry.
  • Financial – If you or your family is struggling financially you may be denied entry.
  • Other – There are many other reasons you may be inadmissible to Canada that don’t have to do much with regular people like terrorism, organized crime and providing false information.

How to enter Canada if you are inadmissible due to a felony or criminal record

Their are a number of things an inadmissible felon can do that will allow them to enter Canada. These include the following options;

  1. Be approved for a Canadian Temporary Resident permit (TRP)
  2. Prove that you are “Deemed Rehabilitated” to a Canadian immigration officer.
  3. Applied and have been approved for a “individual rehabilitation.”
  4. Be granted a record suspension.

Option #1 (Temporary Resident Permit – TRP)

If you have been found guilty of any crime you can apply for a TRP (Canadian Temporary Resident Permit). The fee for a TRP is $200.00.

The catch to getting a TRP is that you MUST be able to prove the following;

If you’re otherwise inadmissible but have a reason to travel to Canada that is justified in the circumstances, you may be issued a temporary resident permit (TRP).

To be eligible for a temporary resident permit, your need to enter or stay in Canada must outweigh the health or safety risks to Canadian society, as determined by an immigration or a border services officer. Even if the reason you’re inadmissible seems minor, you must demonstrate that your visit is justified.

There is no guarantee that you’ll be issued a temporary resident permit.

Source: Government of Canada – Immigration

How do you justify that you need to enter Canada in order to get a TRP/Temporary Resident Permit? In all honest, our organization, Help For Felons, is unclear about what qualifies. It seems as if it only highly benefits Canada will they even consider this option. Our recommendation is to speak with a Canadian immigration lawyer.

Option #2 (Prove that you are Deemed Rehabilitated)

Basically what this means is that you can try and prove to Canadian immigration officials that you are rehabilitated and pose no threat to the Canadian government or it’s citizens. If you are a US citizen you can ask to be assessed at any port of entry (entrance to Canada)

You will have to fill out an application that will ask the following thing:

  • Number of crimes convicted of
  • Circumstances of crime(s)
  • Have you been clean since conviction
  • Why you will not commit a crime again
  • Do you have a support system in place
  • Why you consider yourself rehabilitated
  • What you do for a living currently

To apply and be deemed rehabilitated you must meet the following criteria: 

  • Have not been convicted of more than one crime
  • Ten years have passed since you COMPLETED your sentence.
  • Your crime is not considered a serious crime in Canada and involved NO property damage, violence or a weapon.

If you are deemed rehabilitated you will be allowed to enter Canada. If you are not you will be turned away. Before attempting this we suggest that you read everything on this page first.

Option #3 (Individual rehabilitation)

To be considered for this option you must meet the following criteria:

  • Five years must have passed since you completed your sentence
  • Have been rehabilitated
  • Your risk of committing another crime is low

You also must meet all of the criteria for individual rehabilitation listed here.

Option #4 (Record Suspention)

If you have your record expunged then you may be able to enter Canada with no issues. You can check with your local visa office to see if your Expungement/Suspension is valid in Canada.

Does it matter how long ago your felony conviction was when entering Canada?

No it doesn’t, what matters is how many years have passed since you completed your sentence. You can apply for individual rehabilitation if your sentence was completed over five years ago and be deemed rehabilitated if it was over 10 years ago.

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.

List of crimes which 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 before you turned 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 was explained above.

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.

Applying for rehabilitation and Canadian visa at the same time

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.