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Can A Felon Travel To Canada?

Having a felony on your record causes many problems and puts limitations on certain rights and freedoms. One of those limitations is the ability to travel freely to whatever country you want to visit because many countries refuse entry to felons. Is Canada one of those countries? Can a felon travel to Canada, or will they be turned away at the border?

Can A Felon Travel To Canada in 2024?

Can A Felon Travel To Canada

Yes, in some cases you can travel to Canada with a felony, but you may need to obtain permission first.

Canadian border officials have access to the FBI criminal records database in the United States and to many state DMV databases.

When they scan your passport at the border, they’ll get an instant report detailing all of the arrests, criminal convictions, or outstanding warrants on your record, as well as any driving offenses on your motor vehicle report.

A felony isn’t the only type of offense that will cause you a problem at the Canadian border. If you’ve been convicted of a misdemeanor, have a deferred judgment, a pretrial diversion, or a driving offense, you could be refused entry due to criminal inadmissibility.

All travelers to Canada must also use the ArriveCAN system to register their travel details and covid vaccination status within 72 hours before they travel.

How to Travel to Canada With A Felony

If you need to travel to Canada, don’t just show up at the border and hope you’ll be allowed through. In some cases, you may be eligible to go through a deemed rehabilitation assessment at the border, but in others, you’ll need to apply for individual rehabilitation, or a temporary residence permit before you travel.

Let’s go through the criteria for a border assessment first, then we’ll look at the other options.

Canadian Border Assessment – Deemed Rehabilitation

If your felony is of a less serious nature, and you only have one felony offense on your record, you may be eligible for a deemed rehabilitation assessment at the Canadian border or port of entry.

You don’t need to apply in advance to be assessed for deemed rehabilitation, although it’s sensible to find out if you’ll qualify before you make your travel plans.

There’s no fee involved, but you will need plenty of supporting documents related to your felony offense and a recent criminal record check, and a police certificate.

For the assessment, the Canadian immigration official will take several factors into consideration.

Check This: Can Felons Leave The Country?

The Type And Seriousness Of The Crime

If the offense is a single offense and one that would be considered a non serious offense in Canada you may be eligible for deemed rehabilitation.

For example, in Canada theft under $5,000 is considered a non serious offense, but in many U.S. states, theft over $1,000 is a felony offense.

Non-serious offenses in Canada are called summary offenses, while serious offenses are called indictable offenses.

You will not be eligible for deemed rehabilitation if your offense was an indictable offense (in Canada), was for serious property damage, involved the use of a weapon, or caused physical harm to another person. DUIs are also considered serious offenses in Canada, so even if you have a misdemeanor DUI on your record, you won’t be eligible for deemed rehabilitation.

It’s not a good idea to try to guess which category your offense will fall into. Instead, contact a lawyer to find out if your felony is eligible for deemed rehabilitation.

How Much Time Has Passed Since You Completed Your Sentence

You’ll only be eligible to make an application for deemed rehabilitation if it’s been at least 10 years since you completed your sentence.

A completed sentence is one where all jail time and parole have been completed, and all fees, fines, and restitution have been paid.

The Length Of Sentence For The Offense In Canada

If the crime you committed, carries a maximum sentence of fewer than 10 years in Canada, you may be eligible for deemed rehabilitation. Be aware that it’s the sentence for the equivalent crime in Canada that matters, not the sentence in the United States.

If you don’t meet the eligibility criteria for deemed rehabilitation, you’ll be ordered to return to your own country immediately.

Felon Entry To Canada Via The Individual Rehabilitation Process

Felon Entry To Canada Via The Individual Rehabilitation Process

You’ll need to apply for individual rehabilitation before you travel to Canada and the process can take a long time. The Canadian government advises applicants to allow 12 months for processing.

If your application for individual rehabilitation is approved, you’ll be able to enter Canada for vacations, family visits, or business trips as often as you like.

Applications require a fee and must be sent to the visa office for your region.

To be eligible for individual rehabilitation:

You’ll need to show proof that you’re unlikely to commit a crime, that you lead a stable lifestyle, and that five years have passed since you committed the felony or completed your sentence, probation, or parole.

If you were given a suspended sentence, the 5 years run from the date of sentencing, or (if applicable) 5 years from the date the fine was paid.

When you apply for individual rehabilitation, you’ll need to supply details about your offenses; a criminal records check and a police certificate; proof of a stable lifestyle, permanent home, and employment; and character references.

There’s a fee to pay when you apply for individual rehabilitation which is either $200 CAD or $1,000 CAD depending on the severity of your offense.

Canadian Temporary Residence Permit Option For Felons

If you aren’t eligible for criminal rehabilitation approval because it’s been less than 5 years since you completed all of the sentencing requirements for your felony, or because your criminal rehabilitation application was denied, you can apply for a temporary residence permit.

Temporary residence permits (TRP) can be issued for a single entry, or for periods ranging from 6 months to 3 years.

To be granted a permit you must be able to convince the Canadian immigration authorities that you have a compelling reason to enter the country and that you aren’t a risk to Canadian citizens.

Emergency applications for legitimately urgent travel can be made at the border, but for other travel purposes, applications for a TRP should be made to the Canadian visa office for your region. The application fee is $200 CAD.

Reasons for travel that would be considered urgent and eligible for a TRP application at the border include a last-minute business trip or the death of a family member. TRPs issued at the border are likely to only be valid for a single trip, and an application made at the border is less likely to be successful than one made in advance.

When you apply for a Temporary Residence Permit at the border, or via the Canadian consulate, you’ll need to complete the application form, pay the fee, and submit the following documents:

  • 2 passport photos taken in the last 6 months
  • FBI background check no longer than 6 months old
  • State police background checks for each state you’ve lived in for more than 6 months as an adult, and for each state where you’ve been charged with a crime.
  • Documents that show your charges and convictions, and proof that you’ve completed all sentencing requirements
  • A personal statement concerning the circumstances surrounding each offense
  • A statement detailing the purpose of your trip to Canada
  • Proof of the reason for travel
  • A personal statement detailing your criminal rehabilitation
  • Proof of drug and alcohol treatment (if applicable)
  • Character references
  • Travel permission from probation service (if applicable)

Your passport must also be valid for the duration of the period your TRP will cover.

For full information about applying for a TRP, visit the Canadian immigration and citizenship website at

Obtain A Legal Opinion Letter

Whichever form of permission you apply for, a legal opinion letter, while not obligatory, can help your case. A legal opinion letter is prepared by your lawyer and it details why you should be considered rehabilitated, mitigating facts concerning your offense, or that your felony was a first-time offense.

There’s also the possibility that your felony may not be an offense in Canada, and a legal opinion letter will set that out and provide details of the relevant Canadian law. For example, if you have a felony for marijuana possession, and the amount was less than 30g, that is not an offense in Canada.

How Long After A Felony Can You Go To Canada?

How Long After A Felony Can You Go To Canada?

It depends on your felony and the type of entry permission you apply for. The Canadian immigration authority makes decisions on a case-by-case basis, and they can permanently deny entry if your offense warrants such action.

If you need to travel to Canada urgently, and it’s been less than 5 years since you completed your sentence, you can apply for a temporary residence permit. For the best chance of success, you should apply at a Canadian visa office, but you can also apply by handing your application, fee, and supporting documentation to a Canadian border agent.

If it’s been over 5 years since you completed your sentence, you may be eligible for criminal rehabilitation through the individual rehabilitation process. You’ll need to apply well in advance of your travel date and supply documents concerning your offense, along with a background check.

For less serious felony offenses that would carry a sentence of fewer than 10 years if the offense were committed in Canada, you may be eligible for a deemed rehabilitation assessment once 10 years have passed since you completed all sentencing requirements.

For the assessment at the border, you’ll need to provide documents relating to your offense, a recent background check, and a police certificate showing a copy of your criminal record.

What Felonies Stop You From Going To Canada?

Any felony will stop you from going to Canada unless you’ve applied for permission from the Canadian immigration authority.

You’ll also need to obtain permission to enter the country if you have a misdemeanor offense. Even if it’s “just” a DUI or reckless driving conviction.

If you’ve got a criminal record, Canadian border officials will discover the fact as soon as they scan your passport, and then you’ll be turned away.

You may be able to obtain permission to enter Canada if you make an application at the border, or at the visa office prior to travel.

All applications require substantial documentation however, you can’t simply arrive at the border and fill out a form.

Can A Dual Citizen With A Felony Be Refused Entry To Canada?

If you have Canadian and United States citizenship, you can enter Canada freely without your felony being an issue because Canadian citizens have a constitutional right to enter the country.

Using your Canadian passport to enter Canada will be the most straightforward route but if you only have a United States passport or United States passport card, you’ll need to provide proof of Canadian citizenship.

Can A Felon Travel To Canada? Quick Summary

Before traveling to Canada with a felony or any other kind of criminal conviction, you must obtain permission from Canadian immigration officials.

The type of permission you’ll be eligible for depends on how long it’s been since you completed your sentence, and the type of offense you committed.

If it’s been more than 5 years since you completed your sentence, you can apply for permission via individual rehabilitation. If it’s been less than 5 years, you’ll need to apply for a temporary residence permit.

In the cases of a less serious felony conviction for an offense that would carry a sentence of fewer than 10 years in Canada, you may be eligible for a deemed rehabilitation assessment at the border, if at least 10 years have passed since you completed your sentence.

All applications require a lot of documentation and the best advice is to have an immigration lawyer help you prepare your application.

Never try to enter Canada without applying for permission. As soon as a border official scans your passport, your criminal record will pop up, and you’ll be turned away.

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