Can I go to Canada if I Have a Criminal Record in Minnesota?
Under Canadian Immigration Law, if a non-Canadian citizen has a criminal record, he or she may be denied entry to Canada or otherwise said to be “criminally inadmissible.” The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) criminal database and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) crime database are synced, allowing the Canada border to quickly access individual U.S. criminal records. When a U.S. citizen is denied initial entry due to his or her criminal record, that person must obtain permission from the Canadian government to enter. Permission is granted through either deemed rehabilitation, application and approval for individual rehabilitation, application and approval for a temporary resident permit, or granting of a record suspension.
Where a U.S. citizen only has a single misdemeanor on his or her record and ten years have passed since he or she completed the full sentence, it’s likely he or she will be eligible for “Deemed Rehabilitation” and allowed into Canada. Felonies and multiple misdemeanors on one’s record are usually what becomes problematic when trying to enter Canada. With felonies or multiple misdemeanors, “Deemed Rehabilitation” may not apply. Moreover, crimes involving property damage, weapons, violence, assault, or domestic violence will likely disqualify one from being eligible for “Deemed Rehabilitation.” And as of December 18, 2018, an impaired driving offense is considered a serious crime in Canada. Therefore, “Deemed Rehabilitation” for a U.S. citizen with a history of DWI’s is usually not possible. On the other hand, since Canada has legalized recreational cannabis, convictions for possession of marijuana (provided it was less than 30 grams) will not cause a person to be excluded from Canada, though it’s currently less clear how marijuana DWI’s will affect entry into Canada.
With felonies or multiple misdemeanors, gaining permission to enter Canada occurs through either the individual “Criminal Rehabilitation” process or through obtaining a Canadian “Temporary Resident Permit” (TRP). Gaining entry through TRP is a quick process, but it eventually expires. Comparatively, the individual Criminal Rehabilitation process takes significantly longer, but lasts forever. However, the Criminal Rehabilitation program is only available for citizens who have served their full sentence at least five years prior to application to enter Canada. If five years have not passed since completing the full sentence, the only option is TRP. Obtaining a TRP allows one to enter or stay in Canada if less than five years has passed since the latest sentence and if one has valid reasons to be in Canada. An immigration or border officer will ultimately decide if one’s need to enter Canada outweighs the health or safety risks to Canadian society.
A “Record Suspension or Discharge,” otherwise known as a pardon for a conviction, may be valid in Canada. The visa office of the United States can assist with determining this. Similarly, a U.S. expungement could equate to a non-conviction in Canada. The complicating factor is that under the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), a sealed record may be equivalent to a criminal record, which means that just because a U.S. record is sealed does not necessarily make that U.S. citizen admissible to Canada without individual rehabilitation or TRP.
Overall, any criminal record whatsoever can cause issues when traveling to Canada, but not all necessarily will. Due to the synced criminal database with the U.S., the Canadian border can quickly and easily flag U.S. citizens with criminal records. If you have a criminal record it is a good idea to preemptively apply for individual rehabilitation or TRP before heading to Canada.
If you have additional questions, contact one of our attorneys at 763.421.6366. And if we can’t help you, we would be happy to refer you to a Canadian attorney that might be better suited for your case.