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Criminal inadmissibility to enter Canada

If you have committed a crime in a country outside of Canada and you are now trying to enter the country, you may be deemed ineligible to enter due to criminal inadmissibility.

Inadmissibility: s. 36 of the Immigration and Refugee Act

Section 36 is the section of the act that deals with who is and isn’t admissible to Canada. It is divided into two sections: sub-section one deals with those who are inadmissible to Canada on grounds of serious criminality and sub-section two deals with those inadmissible to Canada due to criminality.

Section one says that if a foreign national has been convicted in Canada for an offence which is punished by at least 10 years in prison, or the person has gone to prison for a minimum of six months, then they’re not admissible.

If the offence was committed outside the country, then they look at what kind of offence it would be equivalent to, and if the offence was punishable by at least 10 years in prison.

The second subsection deals with criminality as a whole; it says that a person is inadmissible if he or she has been convicted in Canada for an indictable offence or two offences in separate incidents.

If committed outside Canada, the subsection looks at whether the offence committed would constitute an indictable offence in Canada, or if the two offences committed on separate occasions would be criminal offences under Canadian law.

What can I do?

If the crime happened in the distant past and you have had no convictions since then, you may still be able to gain entry to Canada if you:

  • Convince an immigration officer that you meet the legal terms to be deemed rehabilitated, or
  • Applied for rehabilitation and were approved, or
  • Were granted a record suspension; or
  • Have a temporary resident permit.


If you qualify for rehabilitation, you are no longer inadmissible to enter Canada. Rehabilitation signals that you lead a normal, crime-free lifestyle and that it is unlikely that you will commit further crimes.

You are eligible to apply for rehabilitation if you have:

  • Committed an act outside of Canada and five years have elapsed since the act;
  • Been convicted outside of Canada and five years have passed since the end of the sentence imposed.

Deemed rehabilitation

In this case, you may be deemed to be rehabilitated if a long enough time period passed since your conviction. This may mean that the crime you committed may no longer deem you inadmissible to enter Canada.

Some criteria on which deemed rehabilitation may be made are:

  • The crime,
  • If enough time has passed since you finished serving the sentence for the crime and
  • If you have committed more than one crime.

However, you may only be deemed rehabilitated if the crime committed outside Canada has a maximum prison term of less than 10 years if committed in Canada.

Individual rehabilitation

You can also apply to be deemed rehabilitated in order to enter Canada. After you apply to the Minister of Immigration and Citizenship Canada, your request may either be granted or refused.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Show that you meet the criteria,
  • Have been rehabilitated and
  • Be highly unlikely to take part in further crimes.

Also, at least five years must have passed since:

  • The end of your criminal sentence (this includes probation) and
  • The day you committed the act that made you inadmissible.

It is difficult to enter Canada if one has been convicted of crimes, therefore before you plan on entering, you should consult with a lawyer.

Read more:

Rehabilitation for Persons Who Are Inadmissible to Canada Because of Past Criminal Activity

Overcoming criminal convictions