Canada's Criminal Inadmissibility Rules Bar Many
Canada Routinely Denies Entry to Vacationers Convicted of Crimes Large and Small
Every year unsuspecting U.S. visitors are turned away at Canada’s border based on criminal inadmissibility - having a criminal record.
Whether your criminal record will bar you from Canada depends on if the Canadian equivalent of the crime you committed is an indictable or hybrid offense.
An indictable or a hybrid offense is defined as a crime subject to a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
The other reasons Canada turns people away: a pending criminal case, an outstanding warrant, or a suspended or deferred sentence (e.g., supervision). The following are examples of indictable or hybrid offenses in Canada:
- DUI (drugs or alcohol)
- Dangerous driving (reckless driving)
- Assault (battery)
- Possession or or trafficking in drugs
Overcoming Criminal Inadmissibility at Border
Fortunately, there are a few ways you can overcome an initial finding of criminal inadmissibility at the border.
If 10 years have passed since you completed your criminal sentence (and you have not since been arrested or convicted), you are “deemed” rehabilitated and permitted to enter.
To avoid problems proving you’re “deemed” rehabilitated, you should bring the following documentation to show border agents: certified copy of disposition (court record showing charges, sentence, date sentence terminated), copy of the state law provision you were convicted of, as well as a copy of the equivalent Canadian offense.
Border agents rely on the FBI’s criminal database, which frequently lacks case disposition information.
Temporary Resident Permit
A Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) allows someone to enter Canada who has been convicted of a low level misdemeanor offense, equivalent to a summary offense in Canada. A summary offense is defined as a crime subject to a maximum punishment of two years in prison or a fine.
Ordinarily, you need to apply for a TRP in advance and pay a $200 filing fee. Since 2012, Canada has been granting TRPs at the border to visitors who have only one summary conviction. The $200 filing fee is waived. This is a one-time offer. The next time you visit Canada you have to apply for a TRP ahead of time and pay the $200 filing fee.
If you believe you have a conviction for an indictable or hybrid offense, Canada is probably not your ideal vacation destination. If you're looking for a definitive answer on your admissibility, consult an attorney familiar with Canadian law.