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Entry into Canada with a Criminal Record

Motion to Seal and Destroy Arrest Record (Penal Code 851.91): Thanks to a new law that took effect January 1, 2018, those that have been arrested but not charged, or those whose case has been dismissed, will have an easier time sealing and destroying their arrest records. Most arrests or charges qualify (even child abuse, elder abuse or domestic violence – unless there is a pattern of arrests or convictions). 

Did you know that you could be denied entry into Canada if you have a criminal record? Even a minor conviction from years ago, such as a DUI or petty theft, could bar you from entering into Canada and ruin your travel plans if you are not prepared. 

Misdemeanor vs. Felony Doesn’t Matter? For travel purposes, it is not important whether your offense was a misdemeanor or a felony in the United States; what matters is how your offense translates under Canadian law. Offenses that are minor in some states, such as a DUI, can be serious in Canada and render you inadmissible. A Canadian immigration lawyer can determine the equivalency of your offense in Canada. 

Pending Charges Travelling to Canada with pending charges is possible, but you must present evidence that you are fighting the charges. Without this, you could be denied entry if they have reason to believe you committed a crime, even though you haven’t been convicted. 

Probation If you are on probation for an offense that makes you inadmissible, you will be denied entry to Canada. To travel while on probation, you will need a Temporary Resident Permit

Expungement Not all expungements will facilitate travel to Canada. To completely clear your record for immigration purposes you should apply for Criminal Rehabilitation. However, individuals whose charges were dismissed under California’s expungement law (PC 1203.4) are often accepted, so petitioning for expungement can be beneficial. 

Solutions to InadmissibilityThe best way to ensure you will be allowed into Canada is to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation, which clears your record for Canadian travel. You may apply 5 years after completing your sentence, including probation and fines. Before the 5 year mark, a Temporary Resident Permit can allow travel to Canada for a significant reason, such as for business or a family emergency.

Information originally obtained via Marisa Feil, a Senior Attorney at
Montreal-based immigration law firm FWCanada

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