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How to Overcome Criminal Inadmissibility to Canada

If you have been convicted of an offence in the past, the criminal record can result in you being inadmissible to Canada, preventing you from entering the country for business, studying or other personal reasons. This can be a huge blow to you when trying to access Canada, especially after travelling for a long distance, only to be denied entry at the border. However, being criminally inadmissible does not mean that you can never enter Canada; there are various options you can take to overcome the criminal inadmissibility allowing you to travel to Canada. Below is a look at some of the causes of criminal inadmissibility to Canada, and steps you can take to overcome the inadmissibility. 

Causes of criminal inadmissibility 

Criminal inadmissibility Canada results from having been convicted of an offence either in Canada, or any other country in the world where Canada has access to the criminal records. It is a precaution that is usually taken by Canadian immigration officials to exclude people who are considered a threat to the Canadian public from entering the country. Criminal inadmissibility to Canada is usually as a result of having been convicted of various offences such as:

1. DUI/DWI/ – driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while under the influence (DWI) is one of the most common offences that can lead to being criminally inadmissible to Canada

2. Misdemeanor drug possession – involves possession of small quantities of drugs such as marijuana or other controlled substances

3. Negligent driving

4. Shoplifting or theft

5. Public intoxication and causing a public disturbance

6. Assault

7. Fraud 

8. Drug trafficking

When reviewing admission into Canada, the immigration officials review the offence committed and determines whether you are admissible or not. Other factors are also taken into consideration as can be explained by Canadian inadmissibility inforgraphics found on various websites offering information about entering Canada. These factors include:

1. The nature of the offence committed – the nature of the offence committed is one of the major factors used in determining admissibility. Minor offences such as underage drinking, driving without insurance and parking tickets do not result in inadmissibility. However, more serious offences such as DUI, assault, fraud, drug trafficking, and others will cause you to be denied entry into Canada. 

2. The number of offences you have been convicted of – the more the offences that you have been convicted of, the more likely that you will be inadmissible to Canada

3. The time that has passed since an offence was committed – offences that were committed in the past few years (less than a year and up to 5 years) usually results in inadmissibility. However, if more time has passed since the offence was committed (more than 10 years), and the offence was not serious, it is possible to gain direct entry into Canada

Strategies for overcoming Canadian criminal inadmissibility

Being deemed criminally inadmissible denies you entry into Canada, which can be very frustrating, especially if you were travelling for business, work, to study or to visit family. However, there are a number of options you can take, which can allow you to enter Canada even with a criminal record. Below is a look at some of these options. 

1. Applying for a Temporary Resident Permit

Temporary Resident Permit is a document given to foreign nationals who have been convicted of a crime outside Canada and are deemed as criminally inadmissible. The permit allows them to enter Canada under temporary basis for a specific period of time and for a specific reason. The permit is usually used for people seeking urgent entry into Canada on a temporary basis, for example, to participate in an event or meeting, to study, to work, or to visit family members.

Application of the permit can be done at the Canadian Visa Office in your home country, or at the point of entry when entering Canada. During application, you are supposed to give a compelling reason to the immigration officers as to why you need to enter the country. You are also required to prove that your admission into Canada will not pose any danger to the Canadian citizens.

As the name suggests, Temporary Resident Permit can only be used to solve inadmissibility issue for a temporary period, which is specified on the permit when issued. Therefore, after receiving the permit, you must seek other options of permanently overcoming inadmissibility, or alternatively, apply for a new permit before it expires. 

2. Undergoing criminal rehabilitation 

Criminal Rehabilitation is a permanent solution that is undertaken by people who are criminally inadmissible to Canada. Once the application has been approved and the rehabilitation completed successfully, the crime(s) that you were convicted of are absolved by the Canadian government, which allows you to enter Canada freely.  

To be eligible for criminal rehabilitation, certain criteria must be met:

- The crimes that you were convicted of must have been committed outside Canada

- At least 5 years must have passed since the completion of sentence, probation, and payment of any fines imposed

Once these criteria are met, you can then apply for criminal rehabilitation, where you are required to:

- Provide a detail explanation of the offence committed and circumstances leading to their commission 

- Demonstrate that offence was an isolated situation and that you do not have a pattern of committing crimes

- Persuade the immigration officials that you are rehabilitated and do not pose any danger to the Canadian public

Your application is then reviewed by the immigration officials, taking into consideration various factors such as the seriousness of the crime committed, the number of crimes you have been convicted of in the past, and the time that has passed since conviction of the crime. Once the application is approved, the inadmissibility is permanently resolved, allowing you to enter Canada freely. 

3. Having the criminal record suspended

Another way of overcoming criminal inadmissibility is to have your criminal record suspended by the Canadian Parole Board. Just like with the Criminal Rehabilitation, Record Suspension is a permanent solution to criminal inadmissibility. However, it is only eligible for people who were convicted in Canada. 

For record suspension to be approved, you must show the show the parole board that you are not a potential risk to the Canadian public, and that the suspension of your past record would greatly benefit you in becoming a rehabilitated person.


Having a past criminal record can cause you to be denied entry into Canada, but with the above strategies, you can be able to overcome the inadmissibility problem for a temporary period or permanently depending on the strategy chosen. However, the processes are very complex, and usually requires you to file lots of legal documents and make convincing legal arguments. Therefore, you should consider hiring an immigration lawyer to help you with the application, as well as to advice you on how to proceed, which can significantly increase your chances of overcoming the inadmissibility. 


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