How to Travel to Canada with a Felony Charge

Three Methods:Being Deemed RehabilitatedApplying for Individual RehabilitationObtaining a Record Suspension

Traveling can be a stressful experience. The customs requirements, banned items that cannot be taken across borders, and the fine print you neglected to read before starting your trip may cause delays and frustration when you finally reach your destination.

Add on top of this traveling with a felony conviction. Canada has been known for especially strict entry requirements when it comes to persons with felony convictions. To travel to Canada with a felony, you must get prior approval before entering.

Method 1
Being Deemed Rehabilitated

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    Perform a self-assessment. Before leaving for your trip, assess whether or not you meet the criteria for being deemed rehabilitated. If you don’t, you risk being denied entry into Canada. To be deemed rehabilitated, you must satisfy the following:
    • you have had only one conviction in total or committed one crime
    • at least 10 years have passed since you completed your sentence; 5 years for summary (or minor) offenses
    • the crime you committed is not considered a “serious” crime in Canada (i.e., the maximum prison sentence if convicted in Canada would have been less than 10 years)
    • the crime did not entail use of a weapon, physical harm to a person, or involve serious property damage.[1]
    • Note that simply because your criminal records were sealed or expunged, you may still be prevented from entering Canada. The same applies to being pardoned. Getting a certificate of innocence may carry more weight.
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    Research Canadian law. Canada weighs a conviction in the United States and other foreign countries against their own legal statutes. Although a conviction may qualify as only a misdemeanor in the United States, what matters is how much time you would serve if the crime were committed in Canada.
    • You can find information about Canadian laws and punishments by visiting your library, contacting a Canadian consulate office, or looking up crimes at the Canadian Legal Institute Information website.
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    Gather all necessary documents. You must present documentation about your conviction to a Canadian official at the port of entry. If you don't already have these documents, locate them:
    • a passport, or a birth certificate plus photo identification
    • a copy of court documents for each conviction, plus proof that all sentences were completed
    • a recent criminal record check
    • a recent police certificate from the country you were convicted in, and from any country where you lived for at least six months during the past 10 years. [2]
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    Secure documents you are missing. You should give yourself several months to find any necessary documents you are missing.
    • You may get a passport at a post office.
    • Copy of court documents are available at the courthouse where you were convicted.
    • You may get a criminal record check from local police. Go to the police office where you live and request the check. They will provide you with a printout of the results. If you live in the United States, you should get a criminal record check from each state you have lived in for at least 6 consecutive months since turning 18.
    • A recent police certificate may be obtained by contacting the FBI. Write to “FBI, Criminal Justice Information Services Division—Summary Request, 1000 Custer Hollow Road, Clarksburg, WV 26306.”[3]
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    Travel to a Canadian Port of Entry. An immigration officer will assess you at the point of entry. If you are denied, then you will not be allowed to enter Canada.
    • There is no guarantee you will be deemed rehabilitated and allowed to enter Canada, even if enough time has passed since you served your sentence. If you do not want to risk being turned away, then you should apply for individual rehabilitation at least 6 months before your planned trip.
    • At a bare minimum, if you plan to just go to the border or fly into Canada, you should have a legal opinion prepared by an attorney stating that your criminal convictions should qualify you as "deemed rehabilitated." Even if you have this document, however, you will not necessarily be admitted.

Method 2
Applying for Individual Rehabilitation

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    Satisfy the criteria. You may apply for rehabilitation only if 5 years have elapsed since the completion of your sentence.[4]
    • Individual rehabilitation is the only option available for those whose crime carries a sentence of 10 years or more in Canada. You cannot be deemed rehabilitated at a port of entry unless the sentence is less than ten years.
    • If you have 2 or more summary convictions, then you may apply after 5 years if you have had no other convictions.[5]
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    Complete an application. The application requires that you provide basic information about yourself, explain your conviction and the events that led up to it, as well as provide a statement on why you feel that you have been rehabilitated.
    • If you have a legal representative help with the form, you also need to fill out the form specifying that. It is included in your packet.
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    Attach documents. You must complete a checklist of documents and attach them to your application:
    • copy of the pages in your passport showing name, date of birth, and country of birth
    • copies of court judgments, which show the charge, the section of the law under which you were charged, the verdict, and the sentence
    • text of non-Canadian statutes you were convicted under (contact local police)
    • a criminal clearance from all countries (including Canada) where you have lived for at least six consecutive months for the last 10 years
    • if from the United States, a criminal clearance from every state in which you have lived for 6 consecutive months since turning 18, as well as a federal clearance from the FBI
    • documentation on sentence, parole, or pardon, which clearly show when the sentence was completed; as well as judge’s comments, probation/parole reports, and letters of recommendation
    • if a juvenile offender, a letter showing that your country has special measures for juvenile offenders.[6] You should get this from the Court you were convicted in.
    • Be honest. If you lie on your application and conflicting information turns up, you might never be allowed entry.
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    Submit the application. You should submit it early. Expect to wait about a year, though decisions have been made within six months.
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    Pay the fee. In order to file for Rehabilitation certification, Canada can impose an application fee from $200 to over $1,000.[7] The amount you will pay is tied to the seriousness of your conviction.
    • Submit at least $200. If more is required, you will be invoiced.
    • Do not send cash. If paying with a credit card, complete an authorization form, which comes with your application packet.
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    Wait for your result. After receiving the application, an immigration officer will review it. The reviewing officer will make an initial recommendation and will then forward the application to the authority who can approve or refuse applications for rehabilitation.
    • For less serious offenses, the manager of the local office usually has the authority to approve or refuse.
    • The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration makes the decision for more serious offenses.
    • Among the factors considered are your number of offenses, as well as the circumstances and seriousness of each offense; and your behavior since committing the offense.
    • Additionally, the officer will examine your explanation of the offenses and of why you are likely not to reoffend; your present circumstances; why you think you are rehabilitated; and any support you receive from the community.[8]

Method 3
Obtaining a Record Suspension

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    Apply for a record suspension if you committed an offense in Canada. If you have a conviction in Canada, you must seek a record suspension from the Parole Board of Canada before you can be admitted back into the country.
    • You can request a Record Suspension Application Guide by writing to “Parole Board of Canada, Clemency and Record Suspension Division, 410 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0R1” or by visiting their website.
    • If you have convictions from both within Canada and without, you need to be deemed rehabilitated and obtain a record suspension as well.[9] Both are required.
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    Complete your sentence. You must have completed all jail time, probation, and have paid all fines.
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    Satisfy the waiting period. Once you have served your sentence, you must wait between 5 and 10 years depending on the offense.
    • Generally, more severe offenses require 10 years. A summary offense typically requires only 5.[10] Contact the Parole Board of Canada with questions.
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    Pay the application fee. It costs $631 to process the application, plus additional costs for other requirements, such as fingerprinting and securing police documents.
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    Carry a copy of your record suspension. Once you have been granted a record suspension, you must have a copy of the record suspension with you at all times.
    • Also send a copy to a Canadian visa office.


  • You should contact a Canadian embassy in your home country if you feel you need more updated or personalized information about entry into Canada.
  • Consider outside help to assist you with filling out your rehabilitation application. A knowledgeable family member or friend can help, as well as a paid lawyer or member of the Consulate.


  • Do not take Canada's entry restrictions lightly. You may end up sleeping in an airport waiting for your return flight home.

Article Info

Categories: Canada | Criminal and Penal Law Procedure