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Clear Criminal Record a Necessity for Travel to Canada


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The United States is not the only country taking its border security seriously. Should a foreigner who has a criminal conviction attempt to enter Canada and Canada has obtained information on their criminal record, then this person may be refused entry, just like in the USA. The question arises of where Canadian authorities could gain access to information about a person’s conviction, if it did not occur in Canada. Obviously, some ex-convicts have gained sufficient notoriety that they will be recognizable to the police, if not to the public at large. Besides this, some states provide Canada with access to their criminal databases. If someone’s name turns up in a criminal record database during a border background check, not having a clear criminal record is likely to result in this person being turned back. Nevertheless, Canada allows people who have a criminal record to eventually undergo a process called “rehabilitation” in order to overcome this disability.

What will be required for a person to be rehabilitated will differ according to the nature of one’s conviction. Crimes that were committed outside Canada will be assessed according to equivalent offences in Canadian criminal law. In Canada, crimes are classified as being “summary”, “indictable” or “hybrid” offences. An indictable offence is a serious crime or what is called a felony elsewhere; on the other hand, a summary offence is less like a misdemeanour in other jurisdictions. A hybrid offence, is one that the prosecution can decide to prosecute either as an indictable offence or as a summary offence (an example is impaired driving). The more serious an offence, the more stringent the requirements will be for obtaining rehabilitation.

Formally, there are two procedures for getting rehabilitation: “granted rehabilitation” and “deemed” rehabilitation. A person may apply to a Canadian consulate for granted rehabilitation, or even do so directly at some border crossing points. For rehabilitation to be granted, certain conditions must be met mainly relating to the amount of time that has passed from when a person was charged with or convicted of an offence. Additionally, one must pay a fee which will be either $200 or $1000, depending on the offence. Once rehabilitation has been granted, the document will allow a person to cross the border to Canada at any time, unlike the equivalent American document (a waiver of inadmissibility), which is only issued for a period of one to five years, and then must be re-applied for.

Being “deemed” rehabilitated can be requested right at the border. A person can be deemed to be rehabilitated if:

  • They have committed one or more summary offences or equivalent foreign crimes and five crime-free years have passed after the person’s sentence was completed.
  • They have only committed one indictable offence or equivalent and ten years have passed since the person’s sentence was completed.

Being deemed rehabilitated is a free procedure; however, it might not be issued permanently and an individual may be denied entry at a subsequent visit or might have to ask to be deemed rehabilitated again.

In the case that a person is not yet eligible to be granted rehabilitation or deemed rehabilitated, a border agent has the discretion to issue a temporary resident permit to a traveler. This costs $200 and is normally issued for a single entry into Canada. Another option exists for people who committed their crime in Canada. They can apply for a pardon to the Parole Board of Canada 3 to 10 years (again, depending on the gravity of their conviction) after completing their sentence. Once it is granted, a pardon will information from Canadian databases, allowing a person to travel to Canada.


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