If you plan on traveling to Canada for business, leisure or family reasons, and you have a criminal offense on your record, it is possible that you may have issues at the Canadian border. Border security officials are allowed to deny entry to anyone who has a criminal record, even if the offense occurred a long time ago.
Not all criminal offenses ender you inadmissible to enter Canada, though many do, even those which are classified as misdemeanors or traffic violations in the United States. For example, people are often surprised to learn that a single DUI or DWI is a serious crime in Canada. Crimes like indecent exposure or disturbing the peace, do not automatically make you inadmissible to enter Canada, although it is best to speak with an immigration attorney to confirm whether your offense can cause issues at the border.
Let’s explore some of your options for crossing the border with an offense on your record:
When do you need a temporary resident permit (TRP)?
If you wish to enter Canada, but have a criminal offense on your record that occurred less than ten (10) years ago, you will most likely require a TRP in order to be able to go to Canada legally. Please note that the ten-year rule starts from the moment when ALL ordered conditions of your imposed sentence have been successfully completed and NOT from the date of the conviction. This is an important distinction. Hence, if ten years have yet to have passed, you may apply for a TRP. The TRP allows entry into the country for any purpose, such as a flight layover or business meeting and is valid for a specific period of time and for up to three (3) years at a time. Once the 10 years have passed from the moment of completion of all conditions, you will become what is called Rehabilitated by the effect of time, and can benefit from an immigration lawyer’s Legal Opinion Letter, instead of having to request a TRP.
However, it’s important to be aware that just because 10 years have passed, it does not mean the slate is wiped clean. The laws have recently changed, and not everyone is cleared through the passage of time. Also, you still need to obtain the proper documentation, which may include criminal rehabilitation and/or a legal opinion letter, as mentioned above.
Which offenses qualify for an automatic “deemed rehabilitated” after 10 years?
Before December 18th, 2018, a US citizen with a single DUI or another similar offense on their record could have become “deemed rehabilitated by the effect of time” after 10 years have passed from the moment of completion of all conditions of their sentence. However, Canadian laws have changed within the past year, and things are not this easy anymore. A DUI is now considered a serious crime and is punishable by up to 10 years of imprisonment. It is also no longer an offense that will automatically be “deemed rehabilitated” after 10 years. This means that you could still potentially be denied entry to Canada, even if the DUI happened more than a decade ago.
The good news is that you do have options. It’s important to work with an experienced Canadian immigration attorney who can help you and ensure that you be allowed to travel to Canada legally and hassle free. Here is what we recommend:
Who is eligible for a Legal Opinion Letter?
The first option you have is to be deemed rehabilitated by the effect, or passage, of time. Once ten years will have passed form the moment of completion of all conditions of your only offense, you become deemed rehabilitated by the effect of time, and you can travel freely to and from Canada, and could benefit from a Legal Opinion Letter drafted by a Canadian immigration lawyer which will explain the case to the borer officers. Here are the conditions you must meet in order to be eligible:
- You have no more than one offense on record outside of Canada;
- At least 10 years have passed since the day you completed all sentencing conditions; and
- The offense is punishable in Canada by a maximum prison term of less than 10 years.
If I am deemed rehabilitated, how can I obtain a Legal Opinion Letter from a Canadian immigration attorney?
With the laws being as strict as they are, it’s highly recommended to get a Legal Opinion Letter from a Canadian immigration attorney. This letter is written by an attorney who advocates on your behalf as to why you are rehabilitated by the passage of time. Though not required, it’s extremely helpful when crossing the border with an offense on your record. Carry it with you, along with all the supporting documents provided by your Canadian attorney to avoid confusion or refusals at the border.
Here is some of the information that may be included in a Legal Opinion Letter:
- Facts regarding your offense;
- All pertinent Canadian Immigration and Criminal laws and their application to your case;
- Answers to questions that may be raised at the border; and
- Explanation of why you are no longer criminally inadmissible to Canada.
KLM Immigration Law can help you deal with your inadmissibility issues. If it has been 10 years since you completed all conditions of your sentence, you may be deemed rehabilitated by the effect of time, and you could be eligible for a Legal Opinion Letter. If it has been less than 10 years since the moment of completion, we can help you apply for a temporary resident permit (TRP) or for Criminal Rehabilitation (CR).