Can I Enter Canada With a Criminal Conviction?

As published in the May Canadian Immigrant magazine:

In November 2011, the Auditor General of Canada Michael Ferguson released a report criticizing the Canadian government for having what he essentially described as a completely inadequate screening process for detecting people who pose a security risk to Canadians.

As one might expect, this did not go over too well with a Conservative government that spent much of the autumn session pushing a public safety agenda. It responded to the auditor general’s report by promising to comply with his recommendations, and stating that it had already begun to make significant investments to improve security screening. Previously, people with criminal convictions occasionally entered Canada undetected. Border officials would also often let them into Canada on a short-term basis without requiring much paperwork. Now, both of these scenarios are likely to become less common.

It is, therefore, important that people who have been convicted of a criminal offence determine in advance whether they will likely be prohibited from entering Canada.

 Will you be inadmissible to Canada?

If a conviction exists, then it is necessary to determine whether the conviction’s equivalent offence in Canada would be a summary, hybrid or indictable offence under an act of Parliament. Then, one must determine when the individual’s sentence was completed, and whether the offence is one such that passage of time nullifies the inadmissibility.

 Consequences for common offences

Here are immigration consequences for some of the more common offences that people have. In general, offences involving the operation of a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol will render persons inadmissible to Canada for a period of 10 years following the completion of the sentence. The same is true for assault.

Trafficking cocaine, breaking and entering, and sexual assault will generally render persons criminally inadmissible to Canada. The passage of time will not in and of itself resolve this inadmissibility. On the other hand, the possession of a small amount of marijuana, multiple speeding tickets or engaging in prostitution usually does not result in an individual being inadmissible to Canada.

What to do if inadmissible 

If someone is criminally inadmissible to Canada, but needs to enter the country, they then can either apply for rehabilitation or for a temporary resident permit (“TRP”).  If a rehabilitation application is approved, then the person is no longer inadmissible to Canada, and can come and go as he or she wants. A TRP, however, is only good for one entry.

A certain period of time must pass before an individual who has been convicted of an offence can apply for rehabilitation; the general rule of thumb is it has to be more than five years since completion of a sentence. Applicants are required to provide their criminal record, court dispositions, reference letters and other documents demonstrating that the person is not a threat to Canadian public safety.

Immigration officers were previously willing to admit people into the country without the above documentation, but it is now unlikely due to the increased focus on enhancing security screening. As a result, if you have been convicted of a criminal offence, then it’s up to you to determine whether you are inadmissible, and the steps that you can take to overcome that.

Comparing Immigrant Assimilation in Canada and the United States

The Wall Street Journal was out with a piece over the weekend titled Immigrants Are Still Fitting In.  It is a summary of a recent study by the Manhattan Institute which compared immigration assimilation in North America and Europe.

The WSJ produced the following chart which summarizes the study’s findings:

As the chart shows, the study found that Canada ranks highest amongst Western democracies in terms of assimilation.

The study cited the following possible reasons for why Canada might rank ahead of the United States in this regard:

Two facets of Canadian immigration policy may help explain the rapid integration of foreigners into Canadian society. First, the path to citizenship in Canada is short and easily traveled. Foreigners face a three-year residency requirement (it is five for legal permanent residents in the United States and as many as twelve in some European countries), and the nation has taken a liberal stance toward dual citizenship since 1977. Second, Canadian immigration policy places a distinct emphasis on attracting skilled migrants. Thirty percent of foreign-born adults in Canada have college degrees, while the rate is 23 percent in the United States and 10 percent in Spain and Italy. Educational attainment is not a factor in the international version of the assimilation index, but the link between immigrants’ level of education and their degree of assimilation is strong.

I remember being taught in secondary school that “Canada is about multiculturalism, the United States is about assimilation.”  In the wake of increasing evidence to the contrary as shown in this study, I wonder if the notion that Canada is not about assimilation is still being taught.

Canada Begins Sharing Biometric Data

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has released Operational Bulletin 226, which discusses the sharing of biometric information further to the Five Country Conference (FCC) High Value Data Sharing Protocol. The FCC (Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand) meets annually at the Deputy Minister level to discuss ways to improve immigration. In 2007, Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia (New Zealand was not yet a member) to committed to work towards the systemic exchange of biometric data for immigration purposes.

Biometric sharing has now commenced.
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