Criminal Rehabilitation Canada

Being criminally inadmissible to Canada means you are not allowed to enter the country for any reason, without special authorization from Canadian immigration officials (see Temporary Resident Permit). Criminal rehabilitation Canada is an application process whereby a person requests absolution from the Government of Canada, for a particular crime(s) committed in a foreign country. Once an individual completes criminal rehabilitation successfully, they have a clean slate. The criminal rehabilitation process only applies to those who have committed offenses outside of Canada.


In order to be eligible for criminal rehabilitation there are three criteria:

  1. Committed an act outside of Canada that would constitute an offence under a Federal statute
  2. Been convicted of, or admit to committing the act
  3. Five years must have passed since all sentences have been completed, including jail, fines and probation

The most crucial consideration is establishing the equivalent offence in Canada. It does not matter how lightly or severely a given crime is treated in the country where it occurred. What is important is the gravity of the offense, as per Canada’s federal criminal code. Once the equivalence has been established, it is important to determine the maximum sentence imposable by law, this will determine the type of criminal rehabilitation required. If you were convicted of one non-serious offence and more than 10 years have passed since the completion of your sentence, you may be deemed rehabilitated and criminal rehabilitation Canada will not be required. If you are not sure if your offence constitutes serious or non-serious criminality, fill out the form above.

Non-Serious Criminality

If less than ten years have elapsed since the completion of your sentence and/or you have more than one conviction on your record, you are required to apply for criminal rehabilitation, if you would like to visit, work or immigrate to Canada. If ten years have passed from the completion of your sentence and you only have one conviction on your record, you will likely be deemed rehabilitated simply by the passage of time. However, individuals with more than one conviction on their record will NEVER be deemed rehabilitated by the passage of time, an application for criminal rehabilitation is required. An individual, who committed a non-serious crime over ten years ago since the completion of the sentence, is deemed ‘rehabilitated’ by the passage of time. This means that they do not need to apply for a Criminal Rehabilitation. However, many people still request a letter from a legal expert in order to ensure a smooth entry to Canada. An individual who committed a serious crime will always need to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation regardless of the time since the completion of the sentence.

For criminal rehabilitation applications involving non-serious criminality, the processing times are considerably faster and the processing fees are considerably less ($200 CAD) than they are for serious criminality. This applies to DUI, DWI and a range of drunk driving offences.

Serious Criminality

The procedure for applying for criminal rehabilitation is the same whether or not the offence constitutes serious or non-serious criminality. It is in the manner in which the application is processed at the Canadian visa office that distinguishes the two.

If you have been convicted of an offence, where the maximum prison sentence in Canada is ten years or more, it is is considered to be serious criminality. The maximum prison sentence is the only consideration for determining the severity of the offence in Canada. Serious criminality requires an application for criminal rehabilitation, as a person can NEVER be deemed to be rehabilitated through the simple passage of time. Generally speaking most offences that constitute serious criminality, for the purposes of Canadian immigration, are those that involve bodily injury, damage or a weapon.

The processing fees are higher ($1000 CAD) and processing times are longer, for applicants with serious with criminality. These applications are highly subjective and are at the discretion of the Canadian immigration officer assigned to a given file. FWCanada has the experience and legal expertise to guide you through this process and present the strongest possible application to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

The first step of Criminal Rehabilitation is to determine the equivalence of the criminal offence under the Canadian Criminal Code. One must determine whether the offence is regarded as a ‘serious’ or ‘non-serious’ offence under Canadian Law. In order to determine the equivalence of the foreign and Canadian statute, one must be familiar with the Canadian Criminal Code in relation to the laws of country in which the criminal act was carried out.

Once the equivalence of the conviction has been determined, an applicant must demonstrate that they are at a stable position, where there is no risk of them committing another crime. There are numerous ways to demonstrate a stable lifestyle such as professional ties and community involvement. If the Canadian official reviewing the case is convinced of a healthy lifestyle he may grant an approval for the Criminal Rehabilitation.

In order to be successful in an application for Criminal Rehabilitation, the applicant needs to convince the immigration officer reading their application that they have been rehabilitated since their conviction and that there is no risk of reoffending in the future. For these applications, the onus is on the applicant to prove their rehabilitation, and applicants should strive to provide as much detail as possible.

On the Criminal Rehabilitation application, applicants will need to provide a wide variety of information about their criminal and employment history.  For example, the information about the number of offences on a person’s criminal record, the nature of the offence as either serious or non-serious, and the amount of time that has passed since the completion of the entire sentence are all vital to a Criminal Rehabilitation application.

The information and documentation that can make or break your chances of application approval are the sections that require applicants to provide additional information about and justification for their crimes and the circumstances of their rehabilitation.  Two sections afford the applicant a chance to argue their case and to provide details that will enhance the chances of their application for rehabilitation being approved.

One required component of the application is the provision of a detailed explanation about the circumstances of the crime and the events leading up to the conviction.  Immigration officials like to see as many details as possible in this explanation in order to aid them in making their decision.  In this section, applicants should explain their actions and any aggravating factors, such as the use of a weapon or drugs and alcohol.  The goal of this section for applicants should first be an accurate rendering of the circumstances at hand, but also demonstrating that the crime and subsequent conviction were an isolated event as opposed to a pattern of behaviour for the offender.  In this section, applicants should discuss not only the crime, but their motives, any cooperation with law enforcement if applicable, and accepting the responsibility of the action.

The section where applicants explain why they consider themselves to be rehabilitated has the most leeway in terms of what an applicant can include.  Immigration officers need to be convinced, based on this explanation, that the applicant is not a threat to Canadian society and can be permitted to enter the country without risk of reoffending.  There are a number of ways a person can demonstrate that they are rehabilitated, such as detailing their participation in drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs, recounting participation in anger management programs, detailing any new social or vocational skills, and showing that they now have a stable living arrangement.  Additionally, applicants should aim to include evidence of a stable recent employment history or other professional ties and to display connections to their community, such as involvement in social groups or community service initiatives.  Including any documents like positive reports from your probation officer, certificates of completion of drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs, and evidence of restitution can also be assets to your application.

When completing an application for Criminal Rehabilitation, it is important to keep in mind that the immigration officer assessing the application has ultimate discretion over whether or not the application should be approved.  For this reason, it is important to be as detailed and thorough as possible to ensure the greatest chances of success.

Please note: Criminal Rehabilitation is a solution for convictions and offenses that occurred outside of Canada.  If you have also been convicted of offenses in Canada, you may also need to apply for a Canadian record suspension in order to remove your criminal inadmissibility.

FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration follow FWCanada on FacebookTwitter, and Linkedin.