Can Felons go to Canada? A Step-by-Step Guide for Approval

Canadian Immigration Entry Graphic

Known for its beautiful landscapes, multicultural cities, and welcoming communities, Canada is a popular destination for tourists, immigrants, and more. Like most other countries, there are rules and regulations for those wishing to enter Canada. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) decides whether to allow or deny your entry regardless of if you’re coming for a day trip, an extended vacation, or are looking to move to Canada permanently. This process often gets even more complicated and stressful if an individual has a criminal record or felony.

To start, an individual must disclose their criminal record before entering Canada. Border agents will use this information to determine if the person is eligible for entry. Felons may be denied access to Canada if their criminal record is deemed a risk to Canada’s safety and security. That said, entering Canada as a felon is still possible if you meet specific requirements.

If you or someone you know is trying to enter Canada as a felon, this article is for you. You’ll learn what makes an individual inadmissible to Canada, convictions that may prohibit your entry to Canada, and the application process for entering Canada as a felon. We’ll also touch on the documents needed to travel to Canada, how to increase your chances of entering Canada with a felony, and rehabilitation programs in Canada.

What makes a person inadmissible to Canada?

It’s essential to understand entry requirements when traveling to Canada, particularly as a felon with a criminal record. A criminal record is a document that states an individual has been charged with, or convicted of, a crime. Depending on the severity of the crime, it can significantly impact a person’s ability to travel and gain entry and access to Canada, as they must meet specific requirements to be allowed through its borders.

Which crimes would deny an individual entry into Canada?

Individuals convicted of serious crimes will generally not be allowed to enter Canada. Examples of such crimes include:

  • Arson
  • Animal cruelty
  • Assault or battery
  • Breaking and entering
  • Bribery
  • Child abuse
  • Child pornography
  • Domestic violence
  • Credit card fraud
  • Possession, manufacturing, or distribution of drugs
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Embezzlement
  • Fraud
  • Hate crimes
  • Homicide or murder
  • Kidnapping
  • Money laundering
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Tax evasion
  • Voluntary manslaughter

For certain crimes, an individual may still be able to enter Canada if they successfully obtain one of the following approvals:

  • Obtaining a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)
  • Obtaining Criminal Rehabilitation
  • Becoming Deemed Rehabilitated

Can a Felon Get into Canada After a Certain Amount of Years?

Suppose ten or more years have passed since you completed your sentence. In that case, you may qualify for what is known as being deemed rehabilitated. That said, even if enough time has passed, there is no guarantee that you will be considered deemed rehabilitated and permitted entry to Canada. To be sure ahead of time, we recommend submitting your application at least six months before your intended trip.

How to Travel to Canada with a Felony Charge: A Step-by-Step Guide

To gain entry and access to Canada, felons must meet the requirements outlined in the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. This act outlines the eligibility criteria for entry and access to Canada and the process for applying for a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV). In addition, the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act also outlines the process for applying for Criminal Rehabilitation and a pardon. To apply to any of the above, felons must have a valid passport, a completed electronic travel authorization (eTA) form, a criminal record check, proof of funds, and documentation of any medical conditions. Felons may also need to provide additional documents, such as an invitation letter from a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, proof of employment, and proof of educational qualifications.

The Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act also outlines the types of visas and permits available for felons looking to travel to Canada, such as work visas, student visas, visitor visas, business visas, and refugee visas. Each type of visa and permit has its own eligibility criteria and application process, and it is essential to understand these requirements before applying.

Step One: Self-Assessment

Whether you’re considering hiring a lawyer or not, evaluating your situation and particular circumstances is advisable before trying to enter Canada with a felony. Otherwise, you risk having your entry into Canada denied. To be considered rehabilitated, you must meet all of the requirements below:

  • You have only ever been convicted of or participated in one crime.
  • You must have served your sentence for at least ten years; five years for summary (or minor) offenses.
  • Your crime is not regarded as a serious crime in Canada. For example, when the maximum prison term if found guilty in Canada would have been less than ten years.
  • The crime did not involve a weapon, bodily injury to a person, or significant property damage.

Step Two: Hire an Immigration Lawyer

We strongly recommend consulting an immigration lawyer to help obtain Temporary Resident Permits or Criminal Rehabilitation. An experienced law firm can simplify your application process, help answer questions, ensure documents are filled out and submitted correctly, and more.

Step Three: Applying for Criminal Rehabilitation

Applying for Criminal Rehabilitation is an excellent option if it’s been over five years since you’ve completed your sentence. If you’re American, this route will allow you to enter and exit Canadian borders under the same conditions as other US travelers, as long as you don’t commit further offenses in either country.

The Criminal Rehabilitation application process can be complicated, so it’s crucial to understand the requirements outlined in the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The applicant must submit an application form along with the required documents, including the following:

  • A criminal record check
  • Proof of rehabilitation
  • Other relevant information

Once the application is submitted, Canada will review and decide your entry and access to Canada. The applicant may also be asked to attend an interview with a Canadian immigration officer.

Step Four: Applying for a Temporary Resident Permit

If it has been less than five years since the end of your sentence or if you have particular circumstances, you may be able to get a Temporary Resident Permit or TRP. A TRP allows you to enter or remain in Canada but doesn’t have the same permanence as Criminal Rehabilitation. TRPs are generally only valid for the length of your visit to Canada as disclosed at the time of application. You must leave Canada upon expiration or get a renewal. TRPs may also expire each time you exit Canada unless it authorizes you to re-enter. For instance, some TRPs have a maximum expiration of three years.

Applying for a TRP is the same for felons and non-felons. The applicant must complete the online application form and submit the required documents, which include, at a minimum:

  • A valid passport
  • Proof of funds
  • Criminal record check

How Dogen Law Can Help

Dogen Law is here to help you apply to enter Canada as a felon. We can help with your assessment, get your documents in order, and apply for TRPs, Criminal Rehabilitation, and more.

Contact us today!

Further Reading

Gain deeper insights into criminal rehabilitation, temporary resident permits, and overcoming criminal inadmissibility to Canada by reading our articles below:

Assault Charges

Border Checks, Criminal Inadmissibility, and Expunged Records

Criminal Rehabilitation & Temporary Resident Permits

DUI Resources

Felony Resources