Every year, millions of Americans travel to Canada to visit places such as Niagara Falls, Old Quebec City and the CN Tower. What many people don’t realize is that Canada border control denies access to tens of thousands of Americans every year as well. While there are a number of reasons why this happens, the most common is due to having a criminal history.
Canada and the United States share criminal databases, which means it only takes seconds to look up your criminal history and determine if you are inadmissible to Canada. Even if you have a misdemeanor crime on your record, or in some states a simple traffic violation, such as a DWAI or a DUI, border patrol can still refuse you entry. This is because Canada has their own legal system that views DUIs as felonies.
Does Border Control Always Run a Background Check?
Canada has the right to run a criminal history check on anyone who enters the country. However, it is not a perfect system. Sometimes, they let Americans pass through without a background check because the process is tedious and time-consuming. To go through this process for every individual would consume a lot of resources. So, it’s possible that you may have visited Canada in the past with no problems, despite having a criminal history.
Nevertheless, we never advise travelers with a criminal record to take chances. You never know when it will be you who border patrol selects to run a background check on. Remember, Canada and the U.S. share databases, making it easy to identify past arrests and convictions by simply scanning your passport at the border. You can only hide this for so long.
What are the Consequences of Entering Canada with a Criminal Conviction?
If you attempt to enter Canada with a criminal record and you get caught, you’ll likely be turned away. However, this is a bigger deal than it sounds. You can’t get back the time and money you spent on your trip, and you may hold other people in your group back. Plus, being turned away at the border can be embarrassing.
In some cases, you can apply for an emergency temporary resident permit (TRP) that grants you access into Canada for a specified amount of time, such as if you’re visiting for work purposes. But there is no guarantee that you will be given a TRP, especially under these circumstances. Canada prefers to know about criminal histories in advance so they have time to make a decision. If you lie about your criminal background and are caught, you may be flagged and will not be able to return to Canada until you obtain a TRP or Criminal Rehabilitation.
Is There a Way I Can Visit Canada with a Criminal Record?
Fortunately, you do have options for legally crossing the Canadian border with a criminal history. For example, you can regain entry by applying for a temporary resident permit (TRP) or applying for criminal rehabilitation. An immigration attorney can help determine which option is right for you depending on the nature of your crime, your reason for visiting Canada and the length of time passed since your sentence.
As an example, you can apply for a TRP if you have a valid reason to enter Canada and at any moment, no matter how recent your conviction or arrest was. Generally, it takes about 3-4 months to complete this application and obtain a TRP approval. TRPs are convenient, but they are a temporary solution to inadmissibility. To be admissible permanently to Canada, you’ll want to apply for criminal rehabilitation, which you can do when at least 5 years have passed since you finished your criminal sentence.
Gain Legal Access into Canada by Working with an Immigration Lawyer
A criminal record is a criminal record – it doesn’t just go away. As a result, Canadian border control can turn you away at the border if you have a questionable history. Even if you visited Canada in the past and weren’t stopped, this does not make it okay to do it again. There is always a chance that you will be, and by law, should unfortunately be turned away at the border. If the border agents find something amiss on your criminal history, you may be denied entry, barred or detained.