Canada is open to fully vaccinated tourists. You may be able to visit Canada with a criminal record as long as you prepare ahead of time.
Although the coronavirus pandemic has entered its third calendar year, tourism to Canada is set to rebound in 2022.
Unlike in 2020 and 2021, Canada is now open to tourists from the United States and the rest of the world as long as they are fully vaccinated. It is important to note the Canadian government is updating its travel rules regularly as the pandemic continues to unfold so you are strongly encouraged to visit their website before you travel to Canada to get the latest information.
You should also keep in mind that Canada has strict rules on entering the country with a criminal record. If you have a criminal record, a Canadian border officer may deem you to be inadmissible to Canada and you will not be able to enter the country. U.S. citizens should also note their passport is linked to an FBI background record where their criminal history may appear. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers have access to FBI background record information.
The good news is that Canada is accommodating to tourists and recognizes those with a criminal record may be capable of being rehabilitated and hence are unlikely to pose a public safety risk to Canadians. As such, the Canadian government offers a number of solutions you can pursue to overcome criminal inadmissibility.
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The first solution is called a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP). As the name implies, it is a temporary solution that may enable you to enter Canada as long as you can demonstrate a compelling reason to the government for your visit. Applicants looking to enter Canada for business or compassionate reasons are more likely to gain a TRP than those simply looking to go to Canada for tourism. Tourists with a criminal record are usually advised to apply for the next option instead, called Criminal Rehabilitation.
The second option, known as Criminal Rehabilitation, is a permanent solution. If your application is successful, your criminal history will no longer be grounds for inadmissibility into Canada as long as you do not commit another crime. At least five years from the completion of your most recent sentence needs to pass in order to apply for rehabilitation. The Canadian government translates your foreign crime to the Canadian equivalent. This is important because rehabilitation fees differ based on the nature of your crime. The application fee is $200 CAD for non-serious criminality and $1,000 CAD for serious criminality.
It is also worth noting you may be deemed rehabilitated if at least 10 years have elapsed since you were convicted of a non-serious crime. One can be automatically deemed rehabilitated and not need to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation but it is best to consult a Canadian immigration lawyer in advance to get a legal opinion letter.
A legal opinion letter is your third option. In the letter, a Canadian immigration lawyer will provide a legal opinion of the facts of your situation including why you should not be considered inadmissible to Canada. It can also complement one of the above options since you can bring the letter with you to the border to provide CBSA officers with additional proof you should be allowed into Canada. A legal opinion letter can be beneficial in a number of situations, including but not limited to the following:
1) Deemed rehabilitated individuals.
2) Individuals who have been charged but not convicted, such as those who received a deferral of adjudication or a Nolle Prosequi.
3) Individuals who have been convicted of an offence which does not have equivalence in Canada.