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Visitors with a Canadian criminal record

Region: Ontario Answer # 683

In addition to all other immigration requirements, people who want to visit Canada and who have a Canadian criminal record may need special permission to do so. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) states that foreign nationals cannot enter Canada if they were convicted in Canada of:

  • an indictable (serious) offence under an Act of Parliament,
  • a federal offence where: they received a jail term of at least six months, or a maximum jail term of at least ten years could have been imposed, or
  • two or more offences under an Act of Parliament, arising from separate circumstances, one or both of which can be a summary offence (less serious).

Although the IRPA sets out specific parameters when the individual will be considered inadmissible, it is important to understand that people are routinely refused entry into Canada based on a criminal record that is far less serious than set out above. The Immigration Officer will consider the entire application and make an assessment of the applicant. If the Officer considers the person a threat to the Canadian public, then the person will be refused entry.

In most cases, therefore, in order for a foreign national with a Canadian criminal record to enter Canada legally, he or she must obtain one of the following documents, or in limited situations, can be deemed rehabilitated by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC):

  • a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)
  • a record suspension (formerly called a pardon)
  • proof of court outcome, and possibly proof that the criminal file was destroyed or purged.


Temporary Resident Permit

A Temporary Resident Permit, commonly referred to as a TRP, is a document that will give you temporary permission to enter Canada even though you have a criminal record. A TRP is issued by CIC for a compelling, specific, and temporary purpose. IRCC will assess several factors and will need to be satisfied that the need for you to enter Canada is greater than the risks that you pose to the Canadian public. This permit can be for a single entry or for multiple entries during a specific time-period, such as six months. A TRP may be cancelled by IRCC at any time.


Pardon, Record Suspension, Deemed Rehabilitated

If you have a Canadian conviction, and you want to enter Canada legally, and also permanently remove your inadmissibility to enter Canada based on the conviction, you will either need:

  • a Canadian pardon,
  • a Canadian record suspension, or
  • to be deemed rehabilitated by IRCC.

If you have already received a Canadian pardon it will remain valid indefinitely unless you reoffend. If you do not already have a Canadian pardon then you will need to apply for a record suspension (which is the same as a pardon except the name of the document was changed in 2012). You should have your pardon or record suspension available for inspection by IRCC.

In limited cases, where your conviction is for summary (less serious) offences, IRCC may consider you to be rehabilitated once five years have passed after the completion of the sentence ordered by the court. To determine if you have been deemed rehabilitated you can make an official inquiry. To do this, you will simply complete the Application for Criminal Rehabilitation form, and check the box labelled “For Information Only”. The Immigration office will make an assessment based on the details of the events and provide you with an official response. If IRCC determines that you are rehabilitated, it is in your best interests to carry this official letter whenever coming to Canada for presentation to IRCC border officers.


File Destruction for non-convictions

If the charges against you were discharged, withdrawn, or stayed, or if you were acquitted, and you have no conviction on record, then technically these charges are not a barrier to entering Canada. However, in practice, this type of record can still cause you to be refused entry, or at the very least, cause problems and delays. It is advisable, therefore, to have the record removed. It is a good idea to have the court documents and the official proof of the destruction with you for presentation at the border.

Note that an Approval of Criminal Rehabilitation is not available if the foreign national has a Canadian criminal record, rather, it only applies if the crime was committed outside of Canada.

Get help

It is a serious offence under the IRPA to enter or attempt to enter Canada with a criminal record, unless you have proper authorization. Also, attempting to enter Canada illegally can result in another criminal conviction. An immigration lawyer can assist you to prepare your application to visit Canada.

For more information about criminal records and how to remove them, refer to our Criminal Records area of law, which provides 95 answers. To find foreign consulates and embassies in your province, click here.

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

If you have been charged with a criminal offence, you should consult a Criminal Defence lawyer.

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

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