Under Canada’s immigration law, if you have committed or been convicted of a crime, you may not be allowed into Canada. In other words, you may be “criminally inadmissible.” This includes both minor and serious crimes, such as: theft, assault, manslaughter, dangerous driving, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and possession of or trafficking in drugs or controlled substances. You can find a list of criminal offences in the Criminal Code of Canada and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. If you were convicted of a crime when you were under the age of 18, you may still be able to enter Canada.
So, what you can do? Depending on the crime, how long ago it was and how you have behaved since, you may still be allowed to come to Canada, if you:
- convince an immigration officer that you meet the legal terms to be deemed rehabilitated, or
- applied for rehabilitation and were approved, or
- were granted a record suspension or
- have a temporary resident permit.
Under Canada’s immigration law, deemed rehabilitation means that enough time has passed since you were convicted that your crime may no longer bar you from entering Canada.
You may be deemed rehabilitated depending on:
- the crime,
- if enough time has passed since you finished serving the sentence for the crime and
- if you have committed more than one crime.
In all cases, you may only be deemed rehabilitated if the crime committed outside Canada has a maximum prison term of less than 10 years if committed in Canada.
Self-assessment for deemed rehabilitation
You are eligible to apply for deemed rehabilitation at a port of entry if:
- you only had one conviction in total or committed only one crime
- at least ten years have passed since you completed all sentences (payment of all fees, jail time completed, restitution paid, etc.)
- the crime you committed is not considered a serious crime in Canada AND
- the crime did not involve any serious property damage, physical harm to any person, or any type of weapon.
A request for deemed rehabilitation is not guaranteed to be approved.
If you think you are eligible, be sure you have these documents if you travel to Canada:
- passport or birth certificate plus photo identification
- a copy of court documents for each conviction, and proof that all sentences were completed
- a recent criminal record check
- a recent police certificate from the country where you were convicted and from anywhere you have lived for six (6) months or longer in the last 10 years.
If you are deemed rehabilitated, you will be allowed to enter Canada if you meet the other requirements. If not, you are still criminally inadmissible and you will not be allowed into Canada.
If you are not deemed rehabilitated, you will have to apply for individual rehabilitation.
Note: If you are not sure if you can be deemed rehabilitated or want to know if you are criminally inadmissible before you travel to Canada, you should apply as described. You must apply well in advance of your trip as routine applications can take six months or more to process.
Being assessed by a visa office
You do not have to apply to be deemed rehabilitated, but you should be sure you will qualify before you try to enter the country. Otherwise, you could be found inadmissible to Canada when you arrive at the border. It is in your best interest to be assessed by the Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate responsible for your area. This will help ensure you do not travel to Canada only to be refused entry or be subject to other enforcement action.
Note: If you live in the U.S., Canadian visa offices in the U.S. do not use this process.
To be assessed, fill out an application for Rehabilitation but in Section A, check the box “for information only.”
Mail your application to the Canadian visa office responsible for your area.
Your application and any supporting documents will be reviewed to find out if you can be deemed rehabilitated. Some of the factors that will be considered:
- how many crimes you committed
- the circumstances and seriousness of each crime
- your behaviour since committing the crime(s)
- your explanation of the crimes and why you are not likely to do it again
- any support you receive from your community
- why you think you are rehabilitated and
- your present situation.
If you are not deemed rehabilitated, you may apply for individual rehabilitation.
Being assessed at a Canadian Port of Entry
If you live in the U.S. you may travel to a Canadian Port of Entry and ask to be assessed. You must bring all documents related to your criminal history in support of your claim of being rehabilitated. An immigration officer at the port of entry will review them to determine if you can be deemed rehabilitated and allowed to enter Canada.
If you are not deemed rehabilitated, you will have to apply for individual rehabilitation at a visa office. If you are not sure you will be deemed rehabilitated at the point of entry, or if you need a visa to enter Canada, you should apply for individual rehabilitation.
Assessment of deemed rehabilitation at a Port of Entry is a completely different process from applying for rehabilitation at a visa office. Visit the website of the office where you will be submitting your application for a list of requirements.
Note: if you do not want to risk being denied entry to Canada or subject to other enforcement action, you should apply according to the visa office’s instructions before approaching the Port of Entry. A fee is required.
If you live overseas, you may also travel without applying, but be aware that you are risking being turned away at the port of entry. See Being assessed by a visa office above to find out how to keep this risk at a minimum.
You can apply for individual rehabilitation to enter Canada. The Minister, or their delegate, may decide to grant it or not. To apply, you must:
- show that you meet the criteria,
- have been rehabilitated and
- be highly unlikely to take part in further crimes.
Also, at least five years must have passed since:
- the end of your criminal sentence (this includes probation) and
- the day you committed the act that made you inadmissible.
If you are applying for criminal rehabilitation along with your temporary resident (visitor visa, study permit or work permit) application, you can submit everything together and apply at the nearest Visa Application Centre.
If you are a foreign national who needs an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), you have to submit a separate application for criminal rehabilitation before you apply for your eTA. You can do so by following the procedures below. Once you have received confirmation of your rehabilitation, you may apply for an eTA. If you apply for your eTA before you receive your rehabilitation, your application will be assessed based on the information currently available, and may result in the refusal of your application.
If you are submitting a separate application for criminal rehabilitation you must complete the application and submit it directly to the visa office responsible for your region by mail or courier only. You must also pay a processing fee.
Applicants in the United States