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Can I enter Canada if I have a criminal record?

Criminality is a problem when trying to enter any country. Canada has tightened its criminal admissibility laws in 2013, which makes it even harder, if not impossible for foreign nationals to enter the country.

What is meant by serious criminality?

The definition isn’t necessarily that you must have committed a major crime. Serious criminality encompasses both major and minor crimes that you were convicted of, such as:

  • Theft;
  • Assault;
  • Manslaughter;
  • Dangerous driving;
  • Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; and
  • Possession of or trafficking in drugs or controlled substances.

What can I do to be considered admissible?

If the crime for which you were convicted occurred relatively recently there may be nothing you can do.

Immigration officers look at the following factors to consider whether you are to be allowed into the country, they include:

  • How long ago were you convicted of the crime?
  • How serious was the crime which you committed?
  • How many crimes have you been convicted of?
  • How has your behaviour been since the last time you were convicted?

If the crime took place a long time ago, you may be able to convince an immigration officer that you are “deemed rehabilitated.”

What is deemed rehabilitation?

Deemed rehabilitation means that enough time has passed since your conviction that the crime will no longer stop you from entering Canada.

It is possible to apply for deemed rehabilitation at the port of entry if all of the following applies to you:

  • You only had one conviction in total or committed only one crime;
  • At least ten years have passed since you completed all sentences (payment of all fees, jail time completed, restitution paid, etc.);
    • onote that for smaller crimes it may be less;
  • The crime you committed is not considered a serious crime in Canada; and
  • The crime did not involve any serious property damage, physical harm to any person, or any type of weapon.

However, even if you have fulfilled all of the above conditions, there are no guarantees that your request for deemed rehabilitation would be approved.

It’s often a good idea to try to qualify for deemed rehabilitation before you enter Canada. To do so, you can go to a Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate to get assessed. This not only ensures that you will not have to waste money traveling to a country that will not let you in but that you are not exposed to further enforcement action.

How do I know if I’m turned away?

If you haven’t gone to the embassy, commission or consulate, then a Canadian immigration officer will let you know you are turned away when you apply either for visa or an electronic travel authorization, or when you arrive at the port of entry.

If you have a history of criminality you may also want to consult with a lawyer before trying to enter Canada.

Read more:

Overcome criminal convictions

Deemed rehabilitation