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Entering Canada with Criminal and Non-Criminal Offenses

If you were like us, we watched and cheered along with our fellow countrymen a few weeks ago as our U.S. Women’s National Team won the World Cup defeating Japan 5-2.  Since the World Cup was hosted in Canada this year, many Americans went to Canada to watch the games.  For many fans, however, they were in for a quite a surprise when they reached the border and were turned away due to a prior criminal conviction in the United States. 

Under Canadian Immigration Law, if you have committed an act in the United States that would qualify as a crime in Canada, you are likely to be prohibited from entering the country.  For many crimes, this is self-explanatory – a theft or assault in New York is very similar to a theft or assault in Canada.  But what most people do not realize until too late is that pleading guilty to a non-criminal charge in New York – such as Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI), which is only a traffic infraction – will prohibit you from entering Canada in the same way as a theft or assault.   Canadian laws classify a DWAI as a crime, not a traffic infraction.  Worse yet, if you have only been accused of a crime in the United States, you will also be prohibited from entering Canada.  Arrests, like convictions, appear on a database that is available to immigration officers at the border.  

For people who still wish to travel to Canada with a conviction on their record, there are a few options.   

If the purpose of entering Canada is a one-time visit, the most popular option is to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP).  Receiving a TRP requires that you: (1) did not serve jail time, and (2) have only been convicted of a single offense.  Multiple convictions or serious offense convictions are ineligible for the temporary resident permit.  For most offenses, there is a fee of C$200 accompanying the application.  However, as of March 1, 2012, you may be able to get a temporary resident permit without the processing fee for a DWI or DWAI conviction.   

The other option is Rehabilitation.  The eligibility requirements for this process are different than those for temporary resident permits, and the response time for processing the application is significantly longer, sometimes up to one (1) year. Rehabilitation requires   proof that you have been rehabilitated and are unlikely to commit another crime. If your conviction was a long time ago, you may automatically qualify for Rehabilitation and be permitted to enter Canada.  For recent convictions, it is not always clear what is required.  However, treatment, counselling, no additional arrests, criminal history, character references and community service are items that can be submitted with a Rehabilitation application. 

At LaMarche Safranko Law, we stay up to date on laws and developments that may affect those convicted of criminal offenses.  We would be happy to answer any questions regarding your ability to enter Canada from the United States.