Entering Canada as an American with a criminal record can pose significant difficulties due to the strict entry requirements of the Canadian government. Such individuals may be considered inadmissible and thus need to take additional steps to increase their chances of entering Canada.
Rehabilitation programs and permits are available that can potentially assist you in gaining entry to the country. Two of the most common programs and permits which help individuals with criminal records overcome inadmissibility to Canada are Temporary Resident Permits and Criminal Rehabilitation.
At Dogen Law, we can aid you in navigating the intricate legal procedures and realizing your objective of entering Canada.
A Temporary Resident Permit in Canada is an authorization you can apply for, allowing you to get into the country for a predetermined amount of time. This permit usually lasts for the duration of your visit to Canada. For example, if you are visiting for a one-week conference, the permit will be for one week.
You may apply for a Temporary Resident Permit if you have a previous misdemeanor, felony, or crime outside of Canada that classifies you as inadmissible to the country. Typical offenses include the following:
It’s important to note that even if you believe you have a valid reason to enter the country, such as a vacation or work trip, your need must outweigh the health or safety risks to all Canadians.
Suppose your needs to enter Canada are deemed acceptable. In that case, you can apply for a Temporary Resident Permit if you fall into one of the two categories:
A Temporary Resident Permit in Canada can last anywhere from one day to three years. Typically, you’ll only be given a TRP for the length of your needed visit. However, a TRP can cover a single visit or multiple visits, depending on the situation.
If you receive a single-entry TRP, your TRP will become void once you leave Canada. If you receive a multiple-entry TRP, it is valid until the date shown on the permit or if an authority maker cancels it.
A Temporary Resident Permit allows individuals with a criminal record to enter Canada for a limited period. Criminal Rehabilitation, on the other hand, is a permanent solution that removes the inadmissibility of individuals with a criminal record, allowing them to enter and stay in Canada indefinitely.
Either option is suitable for helping a criminal offender enter Canada if needed, and both require you to fill out application forms.
TRPs are generally best suited to those not meeting the requirements for Criminal Rehabilitation or other entry options. For example, a TRP is an advisable solution if it has been less than five years since the end of your sentence.
Criminal Rehabilitation has more stringent eligibility requirements. For example, it is at least five years after the completion of your sentence and providing evidence of good conduct during that time.
If you need to enter Canada urgently, applying for a TRP is typically quicker than Criminal Rehabilitation. A TRP can even be applied for at the Canadian border in the case of an emergency.
If you know you’ll want to visit Canada more than once, you may want to consider applying for Criminal Rehabilitation. You can even apply for a TRP and Criminal Rehabilitation simultaneously. That way, you can travel with the TRP while you wait for your Criminal Rehabilitation to be approved.
To be deemed rehabilitated for a crime you have previously committed, the offense must be a non-serious conviction, and over ten years must have passed. Speeding, careless driving, or not wearing a seatbelt are all examples of non-serious offenses.
In this case, you do not need to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit. You are free to enter and exit Canada as you wish. However, if you were convicted of a more serious crime, such as a felony, you cannot simply be deemed rehabilitated and must apply for a TRP or CR.
A severe felony can include any of the following:
If you are unsure whether you should apply for a TRP or have already been rehabilitated through the passage of time, you have the option to get assessed at a visa office or contact our team at Dogen Law for assistance. In the United States, however, a visa office doesn’t work the same as it does in Canada. That’s why we advise the following.
The best option is to get your assessment from the Canadian embassy, high commission, or consulate responsible for your area. You may also fill out the form for Criminal Rehabilitation but be sure to check off for information only.
Lastly, if you live on American soil, you can travel to a Canadian Port of Entry and ask to be assessed. If you choose this route, be sure to bring all documents that pertain to your criminal history and support that you have been rehabilitated.
Before you apply for your Temporary Resident Card, you should know the difference between being Visa-Required and eTA-required.
To apply for a TRP, you must complete the application form IMM 5708. You can do this through the online portal of the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada website. Ensure you have all the required documents, including why you cannot enter Canada.
Next, you’ll have to explain your reasons for entering Canada and include supporting evidence. It’s important to remember that you must apply before you try to enter the country and give yourself enough time.
You will also have to apply for Temporary Resident Status. You may select one of the following reasons: a Work Permit, Study Permit, Temporary Resident Visa, or Electronic Travel Authorization eTA.
As mentioned above, you can apply for your Temporary Resident Permit at the Canadian border. Applying at the border is usually only done in emergencies. The Canadian government recommends applying and getting approved ahead of time.
The biggest reason why it is not advised that you do a Border TRP is that the decision to gain entry is made on the spot. Even if you have already been approved for a Study or Work Visa, you can still be turned down at the border because of your criminal past.
Success rates are typically much higher when you go through a consulate. You’ll also find that applying through a consulate ensures you know you are safe before arriving at any land border crossing or by air.
If, by chance, it has been more than five years since you served your sentence for your convicted crime, such as DUI, and you have paid your fines, you might consider also applying for a Criminal Rehabilitation Permit.
Those who apply for a border TRP and are eligible for Criminal Rehabilitation may stand a greater chance of getting a TRP approved at the border entry point than if they do not qualify for Criminal Rehabilitation.
Lastly, please note that each time you visit Canada can be a unique experience. For example, even if you could enter the country before with a criminal record, such as DUI, it does not guarantee you re-entry.
The fee to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit is $200.00 CAD. This fee is non-refundable even if your permit is refused. There is always the chance that this fee could change, particularly if you decide to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation. If the fee increases, you will be notified.
Typically, processing your application for a Temporary Resident Permit takes three to six months (3-6). Given the processing time, the government suggests applying well before your intended visit to the country.
Many crimes fall under misdemeanors and felonies in Canada, requiring you to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit. These crimes can include the following:
DUIs are one of the most common reasons you may be inadmissible to Canada. You will generally be turned away at the border if you were driving under the influence (DUI), operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OMVI), or even convicted of reckless driving.
Drug offenses can cover a lot of variables. Were you convicted of selling or distribution? Did you purchase drugs, or were you caught in possession of drugs? Or maybe you were convicted while influenced by drugs.
Although, in most cases, any of the above is viewed as a serious crime, it may depend on the type of drugs, how many drugs were in your possession, and even what you did with them.
Fraud is an umbrella term that also includes theft. If the theft falls below $5,000, it is typically considered a non-serious crime. However, committing fraud over $5,000 is a serious crime, and a TRP is required.
A crime is considered fraud when you intend to take something away from a group or individual who claims ownership of that property.
Both verbal and physical assault can be deemed criminal offenses. It can vary if it is against an individual or a group, with or without a weapon. The severity doesn’t matter; you must apply for a TRP in Canada.
If you have a criminal record, you might be denied entry at the Canadian border, but there are still ways to gain admission. Knowing the correct steps for your TRP or Criminal Rehabilitation application is essential to increase the chances of success.
At Dogen Law, we have extensive experience in Canadian and American law. Our team will review your situation, assist with your case, gather all the necessary documents, and guide you through the application process. Don’t risk getting turned away at the border. Contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced lawyer.