When crossing the border into Canada, it may not even cross someone’s mind that their criminal charge from 30-plus years ago could stop them from entering Canada. However, any American with a felony conviction may not be authorized entry into Canada without a Waiver granted by the Canadian Consulate. It does not matter how much time has passed since a conviction. Non-citizens of Canada with a felony on their criminal record risk being turned away at the border and banned in some instances. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) can access all criminal record databases in the United States. US Border officials can also access criminal record databases within Canada. Therefore, a person convicted of a felony will be flagged at the border and undergo further investigation by border services. A traveller always has the responsibility to explain and justify their reason for entering Canada.
A felony conviction might deny a person entry into Canada even if they were acquitted. Suppose the agent at the border does a further check on an individual and finds that they have even just one arrest. In that case, this could be grounds for denying entry. In addition, those sentenced with deferrals, suspended sentences, or conditional discharges may be inadmissible to Canada.
Can you travel to Canada with a felony?
There are ways to cross the border into Canada for individuals charged with felonies or who have convictions on their record. One way to travel to Canada with a felony conviction would be to obtain a Canadian Temporary Resident Permit (TRP). This permit allows travelers who have a criminal record to enter Canada for a specified time. Temporary Resident Permits usually grant Americans entry into Canada for limited periods ranging from 6 months to 3 years. However, most TRPs are given for 6 months to 1 year. Individuals applying for this permit typically require a valid reason to enter Canada, such as visiting family members, work-related purposes, or humanitarian reasons. There is no waiting period from your sentence ending to the time you apply for a TRP, including any fines and probation. Therefore, if you have just finished your sentence for a felony, you risk a refusal of your TRP application unless you provide a valid reason for travel. For a person to be eligible, all conditions of a sentence must be completed, or the convictions must be removed from a criminal record.
Another way for people with criminal records to enter Canada is by obtaining a Criminal Rehabilitation Canadian Entry Waiver. This application grants lifetime entry, which means the applicant will not have to reapply for this to enter Canada again in the future. Once an individual is granted Criminal Rehabilitation, they will not have issues when crossing the border. Criminal Rehabilitation is only available to those whose sentence was completed 5 or more years ago, including any probation and fines related to their charges. All offences are accepted, including felonies and misdemeanours. Once the application has been compiled, it is submitted to the Canadian Consulate. They can take anywhere between 6 months to 1 year to approve or deny your application.
Unlike the United States, Canada considers a DUI a serious offence. This charge can come with serious penalties, such as hefty fines, jail time, forfeiture of your driving license, and impounding of your vehicle. You will not be able to enter Canada if driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, including cannabis. Suppose you have a DUI and try to enter Canada. In that case, you may be inadmissible for serious criminality. You won’t be able to enter or stay in Canada unless you are issued a temporary resident permit. There are also new impaired driving and marijuana-related penalties which could affect the immigration status of permanent and temporary residents as of 2018. Since marijuana was made legally available to adults, the Canadian government imposed tougher penalties on those who drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and cannabis-related crimes. The new cannabis-related penalties took effect on October 17, 2018. Cannabis-related crimes include illegally:
- distributing or selling cannabis;
- importing or exporting cannabis or cannabis-related products across Canada’s international borders.
Find out more about the types of crimes that can get you denied entry into Canada.
On December 18, 2018, the impaired driving penalties took effect. From then on, most impaired driving offences have been considered serious crimes in Canada. The maximum penalty for most impaired driving offenses will increase from 5 to 10 years. These new penalties on permanent and temporary residents could be significant.
When you are applying to the Canadian Consulate, you will also have to pay the C$200 processing fee for the permit. Again, there’s no guarantee you will be allowed to enter or stay in the country. You may also be hit with a serious criminality fee of C$800 during the processing of your application.
Crimes that carry a maximum sentence of fewer than ten years in Canada would be considered non-serious criminality. The crimes that are not considered serious criminality would be non-violent crimes such as theft or fraud under $5000.
On the contrary, serious criminality would involve punishable crimes by a prison term of 10 years or over. These crimes would usually include crimes that cause bodily harm, physical damage, or involve a weapon. As of December 18, 2018, DUIs are also considered serious criminality.
If you have a criminal record, don’t let it get in the way of your trip to Canada.
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