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Dealing with a criminal history when you travel to Canada

International travel can be difficult enough without the stress over whether a mistake in your past could spark issues at borders. Unfortunately, this could happen if you are travelling to Canada and have a criminal conviction on your record.

If you are in this situation, you may be criminally inadmissible. Exploring your options to make this process easier can be crucial.

Provide evidence of rehabilitation

If your criminal offence occurred a long time ago or is something you would never do again, you could provide evidence of rehabilitation. 

One option is for an immigration officer to decide that you are deemed rehabilitated when you apply for a visa or arrive at a port of entry. The officers will assess your situation, how long ago the conviction was and the nature of the crime before deciding.

Another option is to apply for individual rehabilitation. There are several eligibility criteria for this, including evidence that the crime (or the end of a sentence) was at least five years ago and occurred outside of Canada. Based on this and other information, immigration officers may approve your application.

Record suspension

A record suspension sets aside a conviction, making it easier to enter Canada. You could be eligible for this option if you have completed your sentence and have proven yourself to be law-abiding for a number of years.

A record suspension removes an offence from the Canadian police database, meaning it will not appear when police search for a criminal record during entry.

Temporary permit

If your reason for coming to Canada is valid, you could be eligible for a temporary permit. You must show that your need to enter Canada outweighs any perceived societal risk. 

For instance, officers can issue you a temporary permit allowing you to stay if you have a work conference in Canada but have a recent drunk driving conviction on your record. 

Making your case

These options for entry can make it easier to enter Canada, but preparation is essential. To make this process easier and improve your situation, be prepared to complete the appropriate requirements ahead of your trip here and bring all pertinent paperwork and records when you arrive at the border. 

Should any questions or concerns arise, you can speak with a lawyer to understand your options.