Criminal Rehabilitation for Entry to Canada

If you are an American citizen looking to enter Canada and you have a criminal record, you may face a denial at the port of entry. 

Dogen Law is here to assist you in navigating these complex legal matters and achieving your goal of entering Canada.

What Is Criminal Rehabilitation?

Criminal Rehabilitation is a legal process designed to help individuals with a criminal record overcome their inadmissibility to Canada.

In the context of Canadian immigration law, a person with a criminal record may be deemed inadmissible to enter or stay in the country if their past criminal activities are considered severe enough to pose a threat to Canadian society. Criminal Rehabilitation allows such individuals to enter Canada, provided they meet specific eligibility criteria, such as completing their sentence and demonstrating that they have been rehabilitated. If granted, Criminal Rehabilitation can remove the legal barrier preventing an individual from entering Canada for both their current trip and future visits.

Some of the criminal offenses that may prevent you from entering Canada include the following: 

  • Theft
  • DUI (including DWI, DWAI, and more)
  • Assault
  • Domestic Violence
  • Drug Possession
  • Drug Trafficking
  • Weapons Violation
  • Probation Violation

Am I Eligible For Criminal Rehabilitation?

In general, you can apply for Criminal Rehabilitation if you satisfy one of the following conditions:

  • You committed a crime outside of Canada more than five years ago, for which you were not charged.
  • You were convicted of a crime outside of Canada, and a minimum of five years have passed since the completion of your sentence.

If at least ten years have passed since the completion of your sentence, you may already be considered rehabilitated by the passage of time, also known as being Deemed Rehabilitated.

As each case is unique, seeking a lawyer is always advisable to best help you. 

Criminal Rehabilitation versus Temporary Resident Permits

Two of the most common legal paths to overcoming inadmissibility into Canada with a felony or misdemeanor are to obtain a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or Criminal Rehabilitation. Though they both allow you to enter Canada, some notable differences and requirements exist.

The main difference between TRPs and Criminal Rehabilitation is the time since your crime took place or since the completion of your sentence:

  • You may be eligible for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) if less than five years have passed since the completion of your sentence or if you have extenuating circumstances.
  • If it has been more than five years since the end of your sentence, applying for Criminal Rehabilitation can be a great option.

Additionally, processing times and how long you can stay in Canada differ between TRPs and Criminal Rehabilitation. In short, and as the name suggests, TRPs are temporary, whereas Criminal Rehabilitation is a more permanent solution to overcome inadmissibility to Canada.

For urgent and credible reasons for entering Canada, applying for a TRP may be the best solution to meet your needs. TRPs are typically single-entry permits and will allow you to enter the country for a limited time, generally the length of your visit. TRPs do not guarantee re-entry, and you may need to apply for a new TRP if you wish to return or a multi-visit TRP.

On the other hand, a successful application for Criminal Rehabilitation will allow you re-entry to Canada like most other Americans wanting to visit Canada.

It is important to note that the Criminal Rehabilitation process may take longer than the TRP application time. As such, it is often beneficial to apply for both options simultaneously. This way, you can travel to Canada using your TRP while you await your Criminal Rehabilitation.

Criminal Rehabilitation versus Deemed Rehabilitation

A third common way to enter Canada while still having a past criminal history is through what is known as Deemed Rehabilitation.

The main difference between Criminal Rehabilitation and Deemed Rehabilitation is automatically being determined rehabilitated by the passage of time with the latter versus having to apply for the former. For example, if you have a single non-serious conviction and over ten years have passed since the completion of your sentence, you may already qualify as being Deemed Rehabilitated.

In this case, you would not need to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation and would be allowed to enter and exit the country as most other Americans. However, if you were convicted of a more severe crime, such as a felony, you may still need to apply for entry.

In more recent years, the rules for Deemed Rehabilitation have changed. Foreign individuals convicted of a DUI, DWI, DWAI, OVI, and other drinking and driving offenses are no longer automatically granted Deemed Rehabilitation.

Knowing the difference between an automatically Deemed Rehabilitation and whether or not you must apply for Criminal Rehabilitation to enter Canada can be challenging. Get a free assessment with us at Dogen Law.

How Much Does Criminal Rehabilitation Cost?

The Government of Canada requires a processing fee of $200.00 for non-serious crimes with less than a ten-year sentence. A serious crime requires a processing fee of $1,000.00 to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation in Canada.

Typically, you will pay the initial $200.00. If you need to pay more, you will receive a notice for the extra fee. You will also pay the same price if you seek a TRP in Canada. Although, there are some cases this fee can be waived.

How Long Is The Processing Time For Criminal Rehabilitation?

The Canada Rehabilitation application can take approximately six to twelve months (6-12) to process. That is often why the council will advise you to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit simultaneously. Processing a TRP can take three to six months (3-6).

If you arrive at the border with an emergency, you can apply for a TRP, which may expedite the processing time. However, the Canadian government advises against this option. To know more about TRP, you can read about it in our article.

What Crimes Require Criminal Rehabilitation?

Many crimes require Criminal Rehabilitation in Canada. The most frequent that we see are driving offenses that involve:

Driving With Drugs Or Alcohol

There are various classifications of driving under the influence, including:

  • OWI (Operating While Intoxicated)
  • OUI (Operating Under the Influence)
  • OMVI (Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated)
  • DUI (Driving Under the Influence)
  • DWI (Driving While Impaired or Intoxicated)
  • DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired)
  • DWUI (Driving While Under the Influence)

Reckless driving will also get you turned away at the border. Therefore, you will also have to apply for CR in this case. 


Fraud includes theft or any offense where the intent is to deprive another individual or company, and/or organization of their rightful ownership of something. The monetary cost determines the severity. 

A theft under $5,000 is deemed a non-serious offense, but committing fraud over this amount is considered a serious crime. The offense may also be upgraded to a serious crime if violence, the threat of violence, or a weapon is used. 


Assault includes different types of verbal or physical disputes between one or more individuals. It’s important to note that assault with or without a weapon doesn’t change the severity. In both cases, you will be inadmissible to Canada and requires Criminal Rehabilitation. 

Drug Offenses

Drug offenses may include sale, distribution, consumption, purchase, or possession. Whether it is viewed as a serious or non-serious crime may depend on the type of drugs, the number of drugs in possession, and the action taken with the drugs. 

Because there are so many variables, it is best to consult an experienced lawyer to know how to proceed.

How Dogen Law Can Help

Navigating the complications of Criminal Rehabilitation in Canada can be challenging.

At Dogen Law, you’ll gain access to experienced and licensed lawyers in both Canada and the United States. From your first assessment, gathering documentation, and the application process, applying for Criminal Rehabilitation becomes a smooth process and has a higher chance of success.

Don’t be turned away at the border. Call or email for your free consultation today.

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