Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) with a Criminal Record

Are you flying to Canada without a visa? Do you have a criminal record? Unless you are an American citizen, you will need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to travel. However, if you have a criminal record you should not apply online like the majority of travellers. Your prior conviction will likely result in a denied eTA, leaving you with few options for recourse. Instead, you should apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) – if accepted, the TRP will automatically include an eTA.

What is an eTA?

Since March 2016, travellers from visa non-required countries must submit an eTA before entering Canada. In essence, an eTA is an online pre-screening of travellers arriving by air without visas, meant to help catch individuals who pose a security risk or who may overstay their legal visit in Canada. Approved eTAs are valid for 5 years, or until the individual’s current passport expires – whichever comes first.

ETAs are not required for US citizens, however they are still necessary for US permanent residents. This means that Green Card holders living in the U.S. need an eTA to enter Canada by air.

Why Can’t I Apply Online for an eTA?

To obtain an eTA, travellers can normally fill out an online form, but those with a prior conviction will likely be denied through this method. Many criminal convictions can render you inadmissible to Canada, meaning you may be turned away at the border. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), foreign nationals who “have been convicted of a crime, including driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI)” may be denied an eTA, since eTAs are intended to help protect Canada from potentially dangerous visitors.

There is no formal appeal process for a refused eTA; re-application is possible only if circumstances have changed significantly or new information is available. Therefore, if you applied online and were refused due to a criminal conviction, you may only apply again after overcoming your inadmissibility. Skip the online eTA form; if you are denied, it will only cause further delays to your immigration or travel plans. Instead, seek first to resolve your inadmissibility.

How Can I Travel to Canada?

The best way to ensure you can travel to Canada is to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), rather than submit an eTA online and hope for the best. A TRP allows you to enter Canada at a specific time for a significant reason, such as for business or an important family event. The TRP application processing fee is $200 CAD. You can apply for a TRP at the Canadian Consulate in Los Angeles, or directly at the Port of Entry if you are travelling by land, air, or sea. The choice of location may impact the likelihood of your success, as well the processing time. If you choose to submit a TRP application at a Port of Entry, you can save yourself a great deal of time, as applications can be processed on the spot. Alternatively, the processing time at a consular office can take anywhere from 4 – 6 months. For more information about applying for a TRP at the port of entry, see here. A TRP may be valid for a single day or a maximum of three years, depending on the case. If your application for a TRP is accepted, an eTA is not required to enter Canada. 

Alternatively, if at least 5 years have passed since completing your sentence, you may be eligible to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation, which petitions the government to remove your criminal inadmissibility. Eligibility is dependent on the crime(s) committed and the sentence(s). Processing fees for a Criminal Rehabilitation application range from $200 CAD to $1000 CAD depending on the severity of the case. Applications for Criminal Rehabilitation may take over a year to process. You will be advised in writing of the decision made on your application. If successful, your record will be wiped clean for Canadian immigration purposes. However, it is important to note that even if your application for Criminal Rehabilitation is approved, you must still obtain an eTA before entering Canada. 

With an eTA, you can enter Canada as often as you want for short stays (up to six months). To apply for a Canadian eTA online via credit card, it costs $7 CAD and authorization is valid for a period of five years from the day it is issued or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever comes first.

If you are seeking an eTA and you have a criminal record, contact a Canadian immigration lawyer, who can provide answers about your status and assist you in travelling to Canada with a prior conviction.

At FWCanada, we are happy to offer free consultation to promptly provide honest assessment of your case and chances of success. As one of the leading immigration law firms in the country specializing in criminal inadmissibility, we have extensive experience handling a wide range of cases. We prioritize detailed review of each client’s case to optimize application approval.

Please call on our toll free number: 1.855.316.3555 to ask all your burning questions and remedy confusions, because providing honest and accurate advice is our ethos.

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 Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.