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Permanent residence and citizenship applicants with criminal records

Region: Ontario Answer # 685

Who is considered a permanent resident?

A permanent resident is someone who has been granted the right to live permanently in Canada. Permanent residents have more rights than visitors or refugees, but not all the rights of Canadian citizens. Permanent residents can enter legally and permanently live in Canada so long as they comply with certain conditions.

To get help with your permanent residence application, ask a lawyer now.

Can a criminal record make someone ineligible for permanent residence status?

Yes. Having a Canadian criminal record reduces your chances of obtaining permanent residence status. It is usually necessary to have your record cleared, obtain an Approval of Criminal Rehabilitation, or be deemed rehabilitated, before your application will be approved.

To apply for these documents you will have to provide copies of police documents, court transcripts, and other documents that relate to the conviction. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will need full details about the criminal charges to determine whether you are eligible to become a permanent resident.

Losing permanent residence status because of a criminal record

Even if an individual has been a permanent resident for many years, or since childhood, a criminal record can cause the person to lose their permanent residence status and, at worst, it may cause the person to be removed from Canada. The relevant fact is whether IRCC considered the criminal record information when granting residency status or whether the information is new to IRCC. If IRCC had knowledge of the criminal record and still granted permanent residence status, then the criminal record will have no further impact. If, however, new information is brought to the attention of IRCC, such as a very old criminal record that they weren’t told about, or a new charge altogether, it will complicate and could jeopardize the person’s immigration status.

If a permanent resident is charged with a crime, the police will report this fact to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). From this point forward, the CBSA will investigate the severity of the crime and determine what affect it will have on the individual’s immigration status. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act states that a permanent resident is inadmissible to Canada on the grounds of criminality and serious criminality for:

  • convictions inside Canada for a federal offence punishable by a maximum jail term of at least ten years, or of two offences under any Act of Parliament (not arising out of a single occurrence)
  • convictions outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would be: (1) punishable by a maximum jail term of at least ten years, (2) considered an indictable offence, (3) two offences (not arising out of a single occurrence) under an Act of Parliament
  • committing an offence under an Act of Parliament on entering Canada.

Who is considered a Canadian citizen?

A Canadian citizen is a person who either was born in Canada, was born to a Canadian parent abroad (except those who were born outside of Canada to Canadian citizen parent(s) who were also born outside of Canada), or who, after applying, was granted Canadian citizenship by IRCC. A Canadian citizen enjoys full legal status – such as legal rights, privileges, and duties – in Canada. The law that governs how a person can become a Canadian citizen is the Citizenship Act.

Can a criminal record make someone ineligible for Canadian citizenship?

Yes. In addition to the “language and knowledge of Canada” requirements, in order to be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship, you must:

  • regardless of your age, have permanent resident status;
  • regardless of your age, have lived in Canada as a permanent resident for at least 1,095 days (three years) during the five years immediately before the date of your application. Each day you were physically present in Canada as an authorized temporary resident or protected person before you became a permanent resident within the last five years is counted as half a day (up-to a maximum of 365 days), while each day you were physically present in Canada after you became a permanent resident counts as one day;
  • file income taxes (if applicable).

In calculating that three-year period, time spent in pre-trial custody, doing community service, on probation or parole, or in jail cannot be counted.

In the citizenship application, the individual will be asked to provide detailed information about any criminal offences, whether committed inside or outside of Canada. Applicants will likely not be granted Canadian citizenship if they:

you are currently an inmate of a jail, reformatory or prison;

  • you are on parole or probation, or are serving a sentence outside Canada;
  • you were convicted (inside or outside Canada) of an indictable offence in the four years before applying for citizenship, or are now charged with an indictable offence or an offence under the Citizenship Act in Canada;
  • you were or are now under a removal order;
  • you were investigated for a war crime or crime against humanity;
  • you had a citizenship application refused in the past five years because you misrepresented yourself (made false statements, submitted false information, or altered documents); or if
  • your Canadian citizenship has been revoked because of fraud in the past ten years.

At the very least, a criminal record will slow down and complicate the citizenship application process.

Losing Canadian citizenship status because of a criminal record

While rare, a person who has been granted a certificate of citizenship can actually have his or her Canadian citizenship revoked. This can happen if the person committed offences during the process of obtaining his or her Canadian citizenship or permanent residence status. Such offences include making false representations, knowingly concealing material circumstances, or offences relating to fraud.

In any of these circumstances, the individual does not need to be convicted of these offences to lose citizenship status. The IRCC Minister simply needs to be satisfied that a prohibited offence took place and, at that point, an application can be made to the Federal Court for a judicial review of the decision. For more information about criminal records and how to remove them, refer to our Criminal Records area of law, which provides 95 answers.

Get help

A criminal record will delay, and can even prevent you from getting your immigration status. To erase your criminal record, call toll-free 1-888-808-3628 or learn more at Pardon Partners. It’s easier than you think.

For greater certainty on your ability to enter Canada due to criminal inadmissibility, contact our preferred Immigration experts, Bright Immigration Consultants .

Immigration law in Canada is complex. Issues such as getting permanent residence or citizenship, sponsoring someone, and coming to Canada to study or work involve many steps and can be overwhelming. To get help, ask a lawyer now.

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