Canada Eases Entry Rules for Visitors with Minor Convictions

Canada Eases Entry Rules for Visitors with Minor Convictions

August 1, 2016

Any person with a criminal conviction may be considered inadmissible to Canada on the grounds of security. In most cases, when 5 years have passed from completion of the sentence, a foreign national is eligible to apply to Canadian immigration authorities for rehabilitation. Everyone else must apply for and receive a Temporary Residence Permit in order to enter Canada temporarily despite a criminal conviction.

The Temporary Residence Permit

A Temporary Residence Permit (TRP) may be issued to individuals who are inadmissible to Canada due to health or security. A TRP should not be confused with a Temporary Residence Visa, or TRV, which is required of all individuals who are citizens of countries requiring a visa for travel to Canada, regardless of their personal history. An applicant from one of these countries who has a non-rehabilitated criminal conviction must apply for both a TRP and TRV. Applicants from visa-exempt countries, such as the United States, who have non-rehabilitated criminal convictions, need only a TRP for travel to Canada.

An individual can be considered inadmissible to Canada for a either a felony or a misdemeanor offense (known as an indictable or summary offense, respectively, in Canada). However, many tourists, especially those from visa-exempt countries such as the United States, are not aware that even a long-forgotten misdemeanor offense such as a DUI will hinder their entry to Canada. In the past, busloads of tourists have been forced to turn away at the border because one or two individuals were not aware that their minor offenses necessitated a TRP. On the US-Canada border, this has at times resulted in significant economic loss for Canadian businesses that cater to the tourist industry.

The New TRP Rule

Effective 1 March 2012, foreign nationals with a single misdemeanor conviction can be issued a TRP at a Canadian port of entry without having to pay the regular $200 processing fees. Misdemeanor convictions, in addition to DUIs, may include minor offenses such as criminal mischief and shoplifting below a certain level. This rule only applies to individuals who are applying at a Canadian port of entry, not through a visa office.

If a Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer realizes that an individual who wishes to enter Canada possesses a minor criminal conviction, they may use their discretion to determine if the individual should be allowed entrance to the country. However, two criteria must be filled for the TRP to be issued:

1. The foreign national was convicted of an offence and received no term of imprisonment as part of the sentence imposed; and

2. The foreign national has had no other convictions or committed any other acts that would render them inadmissible

If the CBSA officer sees that the above two criteria have been met, they may choose to waive the fee requirement and issue the individual a TRP for entrance to Canada.

Issuing a TRP in this way is permissible on a one-time basis only. The CBSA officer is obligated to counsel that the next time the person wishes to come to Canada, they will be required to apply in advance for a TRP and pay the $200 processing fees. Should a foreign national who has previously received a TRP at the border attempt to re-enter Canada at a later date without a valid TRP, they will be refused and will not be given a second fee exemption. Therefore, individuals who have already received a fee-exempt TRP should take steps to apply for a TRP via standard procedures, thus ensuring smooth entry to Canada in the future.

“This change is a practical step that will help minimize difficulties for both travelers and CBSA officers,” says Attorney David Cohen. “I expect lots of calls from Americans especially, as they learn what needs to be done to overcome their issues of inadmissibility”.

The directive applies to all incoming travelers, but has the most relevance for those crossing by land. As the spring hunting and fishing season begins to gear up, CBSA officials report that the new policy has greatly eased pressure on agents and visitors alike. It is hoped that by letting in travelers who were unaware of their inadmissible status, awareness of Canadian protocol will be raised, and both tourists and the Canadian businesses that cater to them will not be unfairly punished for a common immigration mistake.

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