Overcome criminal convictions
A Canadian immigration officer will decide if you can enter Canada when you apply for a visa, an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), or when you arrive at a port of entry.
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:
- 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.
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.
Deemed rehabilitation, under Canada’s immigration law, 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.
Rehabilitation means that you are not likely to commit new crimes.
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.
Note: These applications can take over a year to process. Make sure you plan far enough in advance of your travel to Canada.
Record suspension or discharge
If you have been convicted in Canada and want to apply for a record suspension (formerly known as a pardon), check with the Parole Board of Canada. If you get a Canadian record suspension, you will no longer be inadmissible.
If you received a record suspension or a discharge for your conviction in another country, check with the visa office that serves the country or region where you live. It will tell you if the pardon is valid in Canada.
This will help make sure that when you arrive in Canada, a border services officer has enough information to decide if you can enter Canada. The officer will still check to make sure you are not inadmissible for other reasons.
Temporary resident permit
A temporary resident permit lets you enter or stay in Canada if:
- it has been less than five years since the end of your sentence or
- you have valid reasons to be in Canada.
If you have a valid reason to travel to Canada, but you are inadmissible, we may issue you a temporary resident permit. An immigration or border services officer will decide if your need to enter or stay in Canada outweighs the health or safety risks to Canadian society.
Even if the reason you are inadmissible seems minor, you must show that your visit is valid.
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