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Getting Into Canada with a Criminal Record

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One of the things we do at Pardon Applications of Canada is in help Canadians with criminal records travel outside the country. Unfortunately, a criminal record pardon does not guarantee your right to visit any particular country. In the case of travelling to the U.S., your pardon is not recognized and you need to get a U.S. Waiver.

But what about other countries? Every country has their own policy on what can restrict/prevent a traveler from visiting. Having a criminal record does not automatically exclude Canadians from visiting every other country, but it’s impossible to give any overall guidelines on what is acceptable or not.

APPLY for a Free U.S. Waiver Qualification Now.

To get an idea of what criminal record holders might expect, we thought we would take a look at what visitors to Canada face when trying to enter the country with criminal records.

  • Your Conviction in Judged in Terms of the Canadian Criminal Code – While there may be extenuating circumstances, Canadian Immigration Officers will generally equate your offence with the Canadian Criminal Code to determine admissibility. If your conviction would be similar in Canada, you will not likely be allowed to enter.
  • Impaired Driving – Surprisingly, while it’s a popular notion in Canada that the U.S. has become more restrictive for travelers, especially since 9/11, it is Canada that is more strict on letting visitors in with an impaired driving conviction. The U.S. will generally allow visitors with impaired driving offences to enter, as long as there are no ‘aggravating factors’.

But you will not likely be allowed into Canada if you are convicted of driving impaired with a blood-alcohol content over the Canadian limit of .08%.

  • Some Other Convictions that Can Make You Inadmissible to Canada – Dangerous driving; assault; street racing; resisting or hindering a police officer in the execution of duty; possession, supply and/or trafficking of drugs, including marijuana; shoplifting; fraud.
  • Paperwork – If you have a record and want to travel to Canada, it’s best that you get police and/or court documents that outline the details of your conviction. Those details might make you eligible to enter. As an example, if you have a driving-under-the-influence conviction, but were convicted with less than a .08% blood-alcohol content, you will likely be allowed to enter.
  • Wait Five or Ten Years – If your conviction means you are ineligible to enter Canada, you can wait for five years from the completion of your sentence and submit an application to the Canadian Government for Criminal Rehabilitation. If your application is accepted, you will be allowed to enter Canada.

If 10 years have passed since you completed your sentence, and your offence is of a ‘less serious nature’, you are deemed to be rehabilitated and can travel to Canada. It’s always best to check first.

Discretion and extenuating circumstances play a role in whether or not a traveler gets into Canada or any other country with a criminal record.

If you have a criminal record and would like to travel outside Canada, you will need to contact the embassy or government offices for the countries you want to visit to find out for sure that you’ll be allowed to enter.

Sources: Government of Canada