Any United States citizen or permanent resident with a criminal record may be denied entrance to Canada due to criminal inadmissibility. Following 9/11, the US and Canada began sharing an increasing quantity of information for security purposes, and as of 2010, the FBI criminal database is synchronised with the Canadian RCMP crime database. This enables the Canada border to swiftly and simply determine whether an individual has a criminal record in the United States and, if so, to deny them entry. Even if the offence was a misdemeanour, such as a DUI, it might provide a significant barrier to entry into Canada. If a person is barred from entering Canada due to criminality, the only option for him or her to visit legitimately is to acquire permission from the Canadian government.

The decision to allow a foreign individual to Canada is solely up to the immigration officer at the border. While you can be denied entry for any level of criminal behaviour, your chances of entering Canada decrease the more offences you have and the severity of the offences. At the border, individuals are examined on an individual basis based on the information submitted to the Canadian Border Services Agency. As a result, individuals with minor offences may be turned away at the border if they do not have a valid permission. Canadian border officers have access to the National Crime Information Centre database, which records all FBI-monitored offences, and so will have a comprehensive list of crimes committed in the United States.
As such, applying for one of these permits is usually a smart idea if you have a criminal background or are on parole or probation.

The seriousness of a foreign offence is determined by its Canadian legal equivalency. In the United States, offences are classified as felonies or misdemeanours, which generally translates to indictable and summary offences in Canada (note that this is a general approach; you should always double-check for your specific offence). For example, a single DUI is normally considered a misdemeanour in the United States, but is a summary offence in Canada unless there is physical injury. Hybrid offences such as assault are prosecuted at the prosecutor’s discretion. As such, even if a someone has been convicted of a misdemeanour in the United States, their conviction may be considered an indictable offence in Canada, rendering them inadmissible.

Permission for criminal entry is provided by either a Canadian Temporary Resident Permit, or TRP, which is the quickest way to acquire admission but eventually expires, or through a procedure called Criminal Rehabilitation, which takes substantially longer but is permanent. A Canada TRP authorizes a foreign individual with a criminal record to enter Canada for a limited length of time and may be issued for a single entry or several entries over a three-year period. The Canada Criminal Rehabilitation program enables persons with a criminal record to completely erase their inadmissibility, however it is only available to those who have served their full sentence (all fines paid, probation completed, etc.) more than five years prior. If you completed your sentence less than five years ago, your only choice for flying to Canada with a criminal record may be a Temporary Resident Permit.

Foreign nationals who have been arrested or convicted of a crime anywhere in the world that may be characterized as an indictable offence if committed in Canada may be declared ineligible to enter Canada. Making an attempt to enter Canada while judged ineligible due to criminality may result in denial of entrance. Only the Canadian comparable law determines whether a person with a criminal record is eligible to cross the border. As a result, it makes no difference whether a crime is committed in the United States as a misdemeanour or felony.

On this page, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of offences that can result in your inadmissibility to Canada. While this list is broad, it is far from exhaustive, as there are other more offences that can render an American inadmissible to Canada that are not included here. If you have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime, you may be considered criminally ineligible to Canada unless you obtain special permission from the Canadian government.

Crimes That Can Impair Your Ability to Enter Canada

Driving Under the Influence (including DWI, DWAI, reckless driving, etc.)
illegal drug trafficking
Possession of controlled substances
Infractions involving weapons
probation violations
domestic violence
manufacture or production of controlled substances
aggravated assault
property offences
indecent exposure robbery
credit card fraud
laundering of funds
sexual assault
child abuse
fraudulent use of one’s identity
battery for wire fraud
bullying on the internet
thievery (RICO)
white-collar offences
refusing to submit to an officer (resisting arrest)
extortion solicitation
insurance fraud
trespassing and enter
fraud in the securities industry
aggravated battery
telemarketing deception
criminal acts motivated by hatred


Crimes That May Not Preclude You from Entering Canada

While the criminal charges listed above can bar an American from entering Canada, not all crimes constitute an indictable offence in Canada. Loitering, open container charges, criminal contempt of court, disturbing the peace, and public intoxication are all instances of offences that, if committed in isolation, do not automatically render a person legally inadmissible to Canada. Even if you have never been convicted of a severe criminal act, you may be considered criminally ineligible to Canada if you have two or more convictions or violations that are considered summary offences in Canada, such as disorderly conduct.

If an offence committed in the United States is equivalent to a hybrid offence committed in Canada, it may also render a foreigner inadmissible to Canada. An arrest or conviction for marijuana possession does not automatically disqualify an American from travelling to Canada, providing he or she has no previous criminal history and the amount of marijuana had was less than 30 grammes. However, if you were convicted under a statute that includes quantities greater than 30 grammes, the onus is on you as the visitor to demonstrate your admissibility if questioned at the border. If you have been convicted of cannabis possession with intent to distribute rather than mere personal use, you may also face difficulties crossing the Canadian border.

After Ten Years, Rehabilitation Is Considered.

Americans with a single minor criminal conviction (the maximum sentence for an identical offence in Canada is less than 10 years) may be admitted to Canada if it has been more than a decade since they completed all sentencing requirements, including any probation. For instance, after ten years, a person with one small theft conviction for shoplifting may be considered rehabilitated. To avoid a border rejection, however, you should bring court documents or other documentation with you to Canada, as past convictions can still raise problems at the crossing. Any criminal offence involving violence, a weapon, or property damage does not qualify for Deemed Rehabilitation and can result in a person’s permanent criminal inadmissibility to Canada. A DUI is now a serious violation in Canada, and any such offence can result in an American being denied entry to the country, even if the incident occurred more than ten years ago.


Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

DUI convictions and similar convictions provide grounds for inadmissibility to Canada, as the offence is classified under Canadian law as a hybrid offence.
Individuals who have been convicted of a DUI (or DWI, OWI, OMVI, DWAI, or any other comparable driving offence) will be required to complete either a TRP or Criminal Rehabilitation in order to enter Canada.
While some of these offences may be classified as misdemeanours in some circumstances or in certain places in the United States, they will render an individual legally inadmissible to Canada.


Penalties for driving while impaired

If you drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs, including cannabis, you may be inadmissible for serious criminality. This means:

  • you won’t be able to enter or stay in Canada unless we issue you a temporary resident permit
  • you’ll have to pay the CAN$200 processing fee for the permit and there’s no guarantee you’ll be allowed to enter or stay in the country

Find out more about the new penalties.


How can I determine whether an offence committed outside of Canada constitutes a criminal offence in Canada?

This is a difficult undertaking since it requires a comparison of Canadian and international laws. While Canadian legislation contains several criminal offences, the most majority are contained in the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Criminality is defined in Section 36 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act when dealing with applicants who may be inadmissible.

If you have questions about travelling to Canada with a criminal record, call us today at 1 (866) 972-7366 or check your eligibility here.