How to Immigrate from the US to Canada With a Criminal Conviction

Are you an American citizen looking to immigrate to Canada?

But, there’s just one tiny problem…

You have a criminal conviction.

Your first thought might be that you can kiss your chances of immigrating to Canada goodbye.

For some people, that will be the case.

But, the issue isn’t so black and white.

In some cases, you’ll still be able to immigrate from the US to Canada even if you have a criminal conviction.

So, how exactly can you immigrate to Canada with something like this in your name?

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know!

Let’s dive right in.

What Is a Criminal Conviction vs. Criminal Record?

So, is there a difference between a criminal conviction and a criminal record?

Yes, and it makes a major difference.

On one hand, a criminal record doesn’t provide definitive proof that someone actually broke the law. It simply means that someone has been flagged as a suspected criminal.

On the other hand, a criminal conviction means that a suspect has gone through the legal system only to be found guilty in a court of law.

It’s much harder to immigrate to Canada as a US citizen if you’re a convicted criminal versus just having a criminal record.

The Ultimate Factor In Immigrating to Canada with a Criminal Conviction

Canada doesn’t have a strict “no-entry” policy when it comes to criminal convictions.

However, your chances of denial are much higher if you have a criminal conviction in the US. Your odds of denial into Canada are even higher if you have a criminal conviction in Canada.

This makes sense, as the Canadian government only wants to allow entry to people who will make Canada a better place and provide value to the citizens and country. If they let in future or past criminals, crime will likely increase overall.

So, what’s the final factor in whether you will make it into Canada with a criminal conviction?

Ultimately, it comes down to a case-by-case basis with a Canadian immigration officer.

The immigration officer assigned to you will ultimately decide whether you can enter or not. This is whether you’ve applied for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), a visa, or when you arrive at a port of entry (land border, airport, etc.).

Canada’s Immigration Law & Criminal Convictions

Under Canadian immigration law, if you’ve been convicted of a crime, you may not be allowed entry into Canada. In the event that an immigration officer denies you entry, you will be deemed “criminally inadmissible”.

This includes both minor and major crimes including:

  • Theft
  • Dangerous driving
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Possession of or trafficking of drugs
  • Assault
  • Manslaughter

For a full list of criminal offenses under Canadian law, you can read the Criminal Code of Canada.

If your criminal conviction occurred while you were under 18 years old, you may still be allowed entry into Canada.

How You Can Immigrate to Canada from the US With a Criminal Conviction

Have you been convicted of a crime? But, you’re wondering if there’s any way you can still get into Canada as an American citizen.

There are three major factors on how likely you are to be allowed to immigrate to Canada:

1. The severity of the crime.

2. How long ago you committed the crime.

3. How your behavior has been since the crime was committed.

Here Are A Few Ways You Can Still Get Into Canada:

  • You apply for rehabilitation (and get approved)
  • You’re granted a record suspension
  • You already have a temporary resident permit
  • You convince an immigration officer that you are deemed rehabilitated legally

“Deemed Rehabilitation”

Under Canadian immigration law, you may be deemed rehabilitated if enough time has passed since you were convicted of your crime.

There are a few factors whether you are deemed rehabilitated legally:

  • If it was a minor crime
  • If enough time has passed since you finished serving the crime’s sentence
  • If you committed more than one crime or not

You may only be deemed rehabilitated if you committed a crime with a maximum prison term of 10 years.

Individual Rehabilitation

Individual rehabilitation is something you can apply for in order to enter Canada. It simply means that you are not likely to commit new crimes.

The immigration minister (or their delegate) may grant you “rehabilitation” status if they approve your application.

For higher chances of success with your application, you must:

  • Have been rehabilitated
  • Show you that you meet all criteria
  • Be very unlikely to commit future crimes

Plus, a minimum of five years must have passed since the day you committed the act and the end of your criminal sentence (including probation).

Record Suspension / Discharge

If you’ve been convicted of a crime inside Canada, you can apply for a pardon, otherwise known as a record suspension.

If you are granted a record suspension, you will no longer be inadmissible to Canada and can apply without a conviction.

If you have a record of suspension or discharge in a different country, you need to check with the visa office in the country you live in. They will let you know if the pardon is valid in Canada.

Temporary Resident Permit

If you gain a temporary resident permit, you may be allowed to enter and stay in Canada under two conditions:

  • It’s been under 5 years since the end of your criminal sentence
  • You have a valid reason to be in Canada

You may be deemed inadmissible to Canada. But, if you have a valid reason to travel to Canada, you may still be issued a temporary resident permit.

Looking to Immigrate to Canada from the US?

Are you an American citizen with a criminal conviction?

Are you looking to immigrate to Canada but don’t know how?

You’ll want to reach out to a Canadian immigration lawyer to help you with the process.

Whether you’re looking to apply for criminal rehabilitation, record suspension, or a temporary resident permit, you’ll want to reach out to a lawyer as soon as possible.

These applications can sometimes take over a year to process so it’s best to start the process as early as you can.

If you need help immigrating from the US into Canada, reach out to us at Falcon Law.

Right now, we’re offering free virtual consultations to help Americans immigrate even if they have a criminal conviction.

Click here to book a consultation today.

For inquiries or further assistance, please contact us using the information below.

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