Entering Canada With a Misdemeanor

Last updated: 28 June 2021

how to enter canada with a misdemeanor

If you are planning to visit Canada and you have a criminal history, even for minor offenses such as misdemeanors, you could be denied entry into Canada and turned away at the border by immigration authorities. 

When border officers deem that an individual poses a risk that outweighs the benefits of their entry to Canada, that person is considered criminally inadmissible.

Fortunately, persons who have been denied entry to Canada have several ways to overcome their past criminal offenses and cross the Canadian border legally.

The Campbell Cohen Immigration Law Firm can assist in your efforts to enter Canada. Simply complete our contact form and one of our experts will reach out to schedule a free consultation with you. 


Table of Contents


Reasons for Criminal Inadmissibility

Foreign nationals can be refused entry to Canada if they were convicted of a crime stemming from a misdemeanor arrest or for more serious crimes, such as felony convictions. It does not matter how the criminal offense was handled in the foreign country where it happened, Canadian immigration authorities determine the severity of the crime according to its Canadian equivalent.

Driving Offenses

Driving offenses are the most common type of a misdemeanor that affects a person's ability to enter Canada.

Each year, many people are turned away at the Canadian border due to convictions for driving under the influence, along with all other similar crimes, such as dangerous driving or wet reckless driving.

However, any type of misdemeanor criminal conviction can make a person criminally inadmissible to Canada, ranging from theft to resisting arrest to possession of a controlled substance, as well as many others.

Because an impaired driving conviction in Canada can carry a maximum sentence of up to ten years, any citation in the United States (or any other foreign country) relating to the operation of a motor vehicle while impaired can render someone criminally inadmissible to Canada.

Overcoming Misdemeanor Convictions

There are several ways to make sure that past misdemeanor convictions do not prevent you from crossing the Canadian border. Finding the best route for your situation depends on:

Once these elements are established, they can be compared to the consequences for a similar crime in Canada, so you may be permitted entry with a valid reason.

Foreign nationals can overcome their past criminal offenses to enter Canada using one of the following pathways:

Consulate Application for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)

A temporary resident permit (TRP) allows an individual, whose most recent offence occurred less than five years ago to become temporarily admissible to Canada. Requests for a TRP are processed at a Canadian Visa Office. Click here to learn more.

Port of Entry Application for a TRP

TRPs can also be issued at a Canadian ports of entry (land, sea, or air) to accommodate last-minute travel plans and emergencies. Click here to learn more.

Criminal Rehabilitation

Through this process, criminal inadmissibility issues can be permanently resolved. Individuals who completed their criminal sentence more than five years ago may be eligible. Click here to learn more.

Deemed Rehabilitation

If your criminal conviction and sentencing was resolved more than ten years ago, you could be eligible to enter Canada without going through the rehabilitation process. Click here to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can be deemed rehabilitated if you were convicted of a crime that, if committed in Canada, would be equivalent to an indictable offense punishable by a sentence of less than ten years, and if the following requirements are met:

  • Ten years have elapsed since the completion of your sentence;

  • You have not been convicted of any indictable offenses or summary offenses in Canada in the last ten years, or more than one summary conviction in the ten years before that; and

  • You have not been convicted outside Canada of an offence in the last ten years that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offence, or of more than one summary conviction in the ten years before that.

Any person that has been charged with a minor crime in the United States but has not yet been convicted can gain entry to Canada with the help of a legal opinion letter.

Drafted by a Canadian immigration lawyer, this letter details the circumstances surrounding the personā€™s charge, so that their lawyer can argue on their behalf. The purpose of the letter is to explain the legal matter, identify risks and relevant Canadian law, and explain why the person should be deemed admissible to Canada.

The United States and Canada have an information sharing agreement in place. When Canadians attempt to enter the United States, their passport is linked to their RCMP criminal record. This linkage is similar for those entering Canada from the United States. Upon entry to Canada, an American is required to present a U.S passport to an immigration officer for screening purposes. This personā€™s passport has a direct link to an FBI background record.

If you want to work in Canada with misdemeanor conviction on your record, you are likely to run into some inadmissibility issues. The Canadian government requires and searches criminal background information when an individual submits a work permit application. In most cases, a Temporary Resident Permit should be filed to coincide with a work permit. A more long-term and permanent solution is the Criminal Rehabilitation application, which can ensure no inadmissibility issues if you plan on working in Canada in the future.

In most cases, an individual who has a past misdemeanor would be considered inadmissible to Canada for 10 years after the completion of the sentence. However, you may be able to apply for Permanent Residency in Canada once you have cleared your inadmissibility to Canada via the Criminal Rehabilitation application. In order to be eligible to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation, it must be at least five years after your completion of sentence.

As a Canadian citizen, you have the right to enter Canada at any time even with a misdemeanor charge from the United States.


About Campbell Cohen

Campbell Cohen is one of Canada's leading immigration law firms. We have over 45 years of experience and feature a team of over 60 Canadian immigration attorneys, paralegals, and other dedicated professionals.

Campbell Cohen uses its expertise to help clients overcome inadmissibility issues. Our team of inadmissibility lawyers and professionals will work to understand your situation and then submit the strongest possible application to Canadian immigration authorities.

CanadaVisa.com was founded in 1994 as the online presence of Campbell Cohen. Since then, CanadaVisa has grown into one of the world's most trusted resources on immigration to Canada. Please connect with us so we can support your inadmissibility needs.

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