If you have a criminal conviction and you’re wondering what steps you need to take to enter Canada, then you’re not alone. Our Clients often wonder whether they should you bring a passport, a driver’s license or their social security cards? These common questions arise because the immigration process is confusing, and learning the intricacies of the system, and how to navigate it, is a daunting task.
Thankfully, once you sift through the information, it is not as complicated as it seems. There are a few important things to know, though, if you are considering making a trip to Canada. And to answer the question, yes, you should bring your passport and driver license, but you can leave your social security card at home.
Traveling to Canada in the Era of Covid-19
As has been widely reported, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected border procedure and limited the ability to pass through the boarder and enter our Country. As of the date of this article, if you are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you can only enter Canada if you are an international student with a visa, an immediate or extended family member of a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident, an individual authorized on the basis of compassionate reasons, or if you don’t fall into a special exception category (a detailed list of who qualifies can be found here), then you cannot enter the country.
From this it is easy to conclude that travel to Canada, with or without a criminal conviction, is presently exceedingly difficult and restricted. However, once the pandemic subsides, and people can begin traveling freely again, you may want to visit our Country for business or pleasure.
Traveling to Canada with a Criminal Conviction, Including DUI
If you have a history of criminality, the severity of the offense will decide the next steps that you need to take. Certain offenses that are misdemeanors in the U.S. are considered felonies in Canada.
A notable example is Driving Under the Influence. If you have been convicted of a DUI, you have to apply for special permission to enter the country. If it has been under five years since you completed your sentence (not since you were arrested or convicted), you have to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit which, as the name suggests, only grants you access for a limited period of time. If it has been longer than five years, you are eligible to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation.
If you can convincingly show that you have rehabilitated yourself between the time the offense was committed and now, then you may qualify for Criminal Rehabilitation which allows you permanent status to enter the country, so long as you do not commit another serious offense.
DUI is just one reason you may be inadmissible, many crimes are considered serious offenses and impact your admissibility. If you decide not to apply for a permit, you will be barred entry to the country at the border. It is not illegal to attempt to enter Canada, but your records will be entered into a centralized system, so regardless of the port or method of entry you choose: if you are deemed inadmissible, you have to apply for the right forms.
What to do at Canadian Boarder if You Have a Criminal Conviction
People often ask about the process at the border when they arrive and they have a criminal record. The first piece of advice I can give is that you should always tell the truth, assume the officer knows the answer to every question they are asking you because they have access to the FBI’s database.
Secondly, if you’ve previously been refused entry to Canada, don’t try to go again unless you have a well documented application, usually the consequence for being denied is that you are asked to turn your car/boat around or purchase a return plane ticket at the airport and return to the U.S.
However, if you are found to be misrepresenting yourself or you have a history of being refused entry and were told not to return, doing so could result in an arrest, charges, detention and a bar from future travel to Canada. If you want a free consultation on your admissibility to Canada, please reach out to FWCanada by filling out the consultation request form here.
About Marisa Feil:
The above guest blog was written by Ms. Marissa Feil, who practices law in Montreal Canada. Her firm specializes in all issues of Canadian Immigration Law.