When can you apply for a Canadian criminal rehabilitation?

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When arriving in Canada, most people are, at the very least, surprised to learn that they can be denied entry because of an offense that they previously committed. There is an ongoing sharing of information between countries, especially between the United States and Canada, and as time goes by, the information being shared increases continually. Amongst this data is criminal record information pertaining to individuals who have records in the United States and/or Canada.

Individuals who never had problems entering Canada before may find an old offense suddenly causing issues at a port of entry. Though for a more immediate purpose, and when the circumstances justify, a temporary resident permit (TRP) can be a possible option, an application for criminal rehabilitation is, when approved, a permanent solution for someone wishing to enter Canada despite having a past criminal conviction or arrest on record.

It should be noted that the offense committed in a country other than Canada will be assessed against the most appropriate Canadian legislation to determine the appropriate Canadian offense. What may be considered a minor offense in another country can render a person inadmissible and prevent entry to Canada (for example, in the state of New York, in the United States, an alcohol-related driving offense known as driving while ability impaired (DWAI) is considered a traffic infraction. Regardless of that fact, such an offense can still lead to inadmissibility on the basis of the Canadian legislative equivalent).

What does Criminal Rehabilitation mean?

To provide a definition of what this process is, applying for criminal rehabilitation means requesting that Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC) no longer consider the applicant inadmissible on grounds of criminality. All offenses the applicant has committed must be disclosed. If the application is approved, inadmissibility is removed and the applicant can once again travel to Canada without requiring a TRP, regardless of whether they enter by land, air or sea.

Criminal Rehabilitation vs. Deemed Rehabilitated

In order to be eligible to apply for criminal rehabilitation, at least 5 years must have passed since the completion of all terms and conditions relating to the conviction, including any probation period. In the case of an arrest that was never followed by a conviction, and which was not dismissed either, the 5-year period starts from the moment of the arrest. In the case of an arrest or a conviction for which the 5-year period has not yet lapsed, a person cannot yet apply or submit an application form for Canadian criminal rehabilitation to Canada’s IRCC. In that case, applying for a TRP might be a possible option depending on the person reasons to enter Canada and the nature of the offense(s) involved

It should be noted that one arrest or conviction on record, which would be considered an indictable offense in Canada, is sufficient to prevent entry to Canada, and therefore justify applying for criminal rehabilitation. In the United States, such an offense is usually known as a misdemeanor or a felony).

Deemed Rehabilitation occurs by the effect of time, without having to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation. It requires the following:

  • No more than one offense for which, in Canada, the appropriate legislative equivalent would be seen as an indictable offense.

As an example, this means that deemed rehabilitation can no longer apply when a person has two or more alcohol-related driving offenses, i.e. two or more of any of the following: DUI (driving under the influence), DWI (driving while intoxicated), etc.

  • At least 10 years have passed since the completion of all terms and conditions relating to the conviction. If there was only an arrest for which there was never a conviction, nor a dismissal, 10 years since the date of arrest.
  • The offense must have been committed outside of Canada.

There are certain offenses for which deemed rehabilitation cannot apply, even if a person has nothing on record except for one such offense and even if well over 10 years have passed since the completion of all terms relating to its conviction. In such cases, applying for criminal rehabilitation becomes a necessity for anyone wishing to become admissible once again to Canada.

Applying for criminal rehabilitation to enter Canada goes beyond filling out a form. The applicant must demonstrate that he or she has been rehabilitated. This demonstration can be made a number of ways and supported by a variety of documents, the relevancy of which is determined on a case-by-case basis. Seeking legal advice in this situation can prove beneficial.

The processing time for a decision to be rendered on a criminal rehabilitation application can be of at least a year and can sometimes stretch to two years. Various factors can influence this, such as the complexity of the application, as well as the number of applications currently in wait at the Consulate or Embassy. As previously mentioned, for those who are eligible to apply for criminal rehabilitation, and who would need to enter Canada prior to the involved processing time being completed, applying additionally for a TRP could be a possible option for the more immediate future.