Being convicted or arrested for a felony outside of Canada can result in the offender categorized as inadmissible to Canada and refused entrance. The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has full access to information regarding criminal records in the United States so anyone with an arrest or felony charge has a high chance of being flagged. Without proper application and documents, they will be denied access into Canada. No amount of passage of time can deem one rehabilitated for the equivalent of a serious offence in Canada. Even if the charges happened decades ago, one would still risk the possibility of being denied entry at the border.
With a criminal record, special permission can be granted to give access in two ways. The first is a Canada Temporary Residence Permit (TRP), a permit which will give visitors permission to enter Canada temporarily up to three years. In order for immigration officers to issue a TRP, the applicant must have a significant and well-documented reason such as travel for work, family vacation, or attendance of a family wedding. The second option for special entry permission is to apply for Canadian Criminal Rehabilitation (CR), a permanent solution for those who are criminally inadmissible. Once granted CR, that person is permitted to cross the border freely. To be eligible to qualify for CR, five years must have passed since completion of the applicant’s criminal sentencing. It takes about a year to obtain Criminal Rehabilitation; during this time and if needed, one can apply for a Temporary Residence Permit if they have not received a decision on their application for CR.
There is also the case that a felony outside of Canada does not make someone inadmissible because that felony is not equivalent to a criminal offence in Canada. For example, possession of under 30 grams of marijuana is a felony in Arizona; in Canada, however, the same offence is treated as a summary offence. A person convicted of one summary offence is not considered criminally inadmissible to Canada. Preparation beforehand with a thorough knowledge of what is on your record and its equivalence to Canadian law will eliminate any surprises at the border and make for a less stressful trip.
If the felony is equivalent to a criminal offence in Canada, different charges will have an effect on the likelihood of a successful application for TRP or CR. Even if you have not been convicted and may very well be innocent, an arrest for a crime means you will need to travel with documentation proving you are not inadmissible to Canada. This documentation needs to be proof of a favourable settlement or a “no conviction”, otherwise the Canadian border can refuse entry based on what is stated on your criminal record for the arrest. When immigration officers look an application for special permission either by TRP or CR, they are less likely to grant entrance to an applicant with multiple offenses on their record compared to an applicant with one misdemeanor. Their job is to assess that by granting this person entrance into Canada, the person have been effectively rehabilitated and does not pose a threat to the safety of the Canadian public. It is even more important for someone holding a complicated criminal record to make sure their application for entrance is completely in order.
The process for obtaining entrance to Canada as someone who has been deemed inadmissible can be difficult and confusing to navigate. Hiring an experienced and knowledgeable immigration lawyer to aid in the process can make it significantly less stressful and maximize the chances of a successful entrance into Canada. Especially in the case that one has a complicated record, having an immigration lawyer thoroughly look through your file, help put together a complete and organized application, and represent you will reflect well to immigration officers on your behalf.