If you are a U.S. citizen/resident traveling to Canada, and you have a criminal conviction on your record, you’ll want to review all of the border regulations before you travel. The United States and Canada share criminal information sources, including the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. They also have access to most county court records. This means that border control agents can check your criminal history in a matter of minutes.
Just because you have a criminal conviction on your record, it does not automatically mean that you can’t travel to Canada. In some cases, entry may be denied, which is why you must arrive prepared.
Canada Border Patrol Has Access to the FBI Database
Many Americans planning to travel to Canada want to know how the Canadian government can find out about their criminal background. Border patrol agents have access to more information than in years past to help them identify potential security risks.
As of November 23rd, 2015, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has full access to the FBI criminal database. United States criminal records are visible through the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC). Therefore, Canadian border agents can see data from all tribal, state and local agencies in the U.S.
Before this date, border patrol would only check the database if a visitor was sent to secondary screening. The initial screening consisted of scanning passports to check for wanted individuals and lost, fraudulent or stolen passports. Today, this is no longer the case. Border officials can run background checks on any American they choose. This does not mean they will, but they have the ability to.
More Americans Denied at the Canadian Border
To get an idea of how secure the borders are, consider that border officials are turning away more Americans than ever before. CBSA figures obtained by La Presse, a Montreal newspaper, suggests that 31% more U.S. citizens were turned away in 2016 than 2015.
So, while you might hear that a friend or acquaintance made it through the border with no problems, it’s not worth taking the risk. If border officials discover that you have a criminal record and you do not have the appropriate prior authorization to enter Canada, you will probably be sent home, and all of your travel costs up to this point won’t be refunded.
What are Your Options for Entering Canada Legally?
To avoid being one of the more than 30,000 individuals turned away at the border, there are a couple of ways to overcome your inadmissibility.
- Apply for a Temporary resident permit (TRP). A TRP lets you enter Canada for a specified period of time and can allow multiple entries. You must also have a valid reason for visiting and meet other criteria. TRP processing can take up to 4 months to process, so it’s best to start working with an immigration attorney in advance of your trip.
- Deemed Rehabilitation. Under Canada’s immigration law, you are deemed rehabilitated by the effect of time once 10 years has elapsed from the date that all conditions of your sentence were successfully completed, and if there has been only one offense on your record. In this case, you may benefit from an immigration attorney’s Legal Opinion letter to avoid any issues at the border.
- Criminal Rehabilitation (CR). Criminal Rehabilitation is granted by the Canadian government to individuals who are deemed not likely to commit another offense. You can apply for criminal rehabilitation once 5 years have passed since the end of your sentence. The CR process is the permanent solution to your inadmissibility. This process can take up to 12 months once the application is submitted to the government.
- Expedited TRP. You can apply for a TRP at the border if your travel is urgent. We only recommend this in emergency situations, such as a last-minute business trip for example. The application which will be prepared by your attorney will be presented to the border agents instead of being sent to the Canadian Consulate for review. The agent will make their decision on the spot.