Visiting Canada this winter? How to avoid inadmissibility issues for border crime

Posted November 26, 2021 8:00 AM EST

Many will be looking to visit the Great White North this winter now that Canada’s borders have reopened and the Christmas holidays are fast approaching.

Visitors from the United States and other parts of the world will be delighted to see family and friends, as well as enjoy the Canadian outdoors. This winter season takes on added significance as Canada’s borders were closed to most travelers last winter.

Before planning your trip, it is important to note that you may be considered inadmissible to Canada if you have a criminal load on your file. Canada may deny you based on factors such as the seriousness of your violation. At the same time, Canada offers three main remedies to allow these people to enter the country. The rationale for remedies is that individuals have the capacity to be rehabilitated. In addition, the benefits to Canada’s economy and society of hosting such individuals are likely to outweigh the potential risks.

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When you arrive at the border, a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) The officer will assess the nature of your conviction and compare it to its equivalent in Canadian law. Canadian immigration law distinguishes between criminality and serious crime. Three factors are considered to distinguish: the type of crime committed, how you were prosecuted and what your sentence was.

As noted, Canada offers three ways to overcome criminal inadmissibility. The three ways are to apply for a temporary resident permit, rehabilitation and obtaining a legal opinion letter.

Temporary residence permit (PST)

You can apply for a TRP if you are inadmissible and need to visit Canada temporarily. You must demonstrate a compelling reason for your visit to Canada and show that the benefits of your trip outweigh the risks. If your application is successful, you will receive a TRIP valid for up to three years. US citizens and green card holders can apply for a TRP at a Canadian port of entry or at a Canadian consulate. Those seeking a TRP from elsewhere must obtain approval during their stay abroad before seeking to enter Canada. The processing fee for a TRP is C $ 200. As the name suggests, a TRP is a temporary solution to enter Canada and you must continue to hold a valid TRP to enter the country until you have recovered.


Unlike the TRP, Rehabilitation is a permanent solution. This means that once Canada considers you rehabilitated, you can visit the country however you want without having to worry about being found inadmissible for criminality.

There are two forms of rehabilitation: reputable rehabilitation and individual.

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Factors to consider include the nature of the crime, the time since your conviction and your subsequent behavior.

Renowned rehabilitation may be automatic, depending on the nature of the crime and the time that has elapsed since the conviction. A person can be considered rehabilitated if 10 years have passed since serving their sentence for an indictable offense and have not committed any other crime since. However, there is no deemed pardon if the sentence for the conviction is 10 years or more under Canadian law.

You can also be deemed pardoned if at least five years have passed since your conviction for two or more summary conviction offenses in Canada (i.e. minor offenses).

You do not need to apply to be deemed pardoned. However, it is in your best interest to speak to your local Canadian consulate or Canadian immigration law firm to confirm that you are eligible to enter Canada.

It may also be helpful to obtain a legal opinion letter from a law firm in the event that a CBSA officer is in doubt as to your eligibility.

You must apply individual rehabilitation if you are not eligible for deemed rehabilitation. Five years must have passed since the act was committed or the end of your sentence (whichever is later).

As part of the application process, you must prove that at least five years have actually passed, that you are no longer at risk of crime and that you are no longer at risk.

The cost of the application is CAD $ 200 for criminality and CAD $ 1,000 for serious crime.

Legal Opinion Letter

Legal opinion letters are your third option to overcome inadmissibility for criminality at the Canadian border. The letters are prepared by lawyers and contain arguments explaining why you should be able to enter Canada despite your criminal record. The letter can challenge a conviction or accusation, or on the contrary, acknowledge the conviction. The lawyer can argue that people like you are deemed rehabilitated; your offense was an isolated incident and / or of a less serious nature; or potentially, there is no Canadian equivalent to your offense. Legal opinion letters can be used to support a TRP or rehabilitation request.

It is important to remember that although Canada has strict rules, it seeks to accommodate entry into the country. By preparing in advance for your trip, understanding your options for overcoming criminal inadmissibility, you will avoid unexpected surprises at the Canadian border.

Click here for a free consultation with the law firm Campbell Cohen

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