Can you go to Canada with a Felony?

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Traveling to Canada with a felony on your record presents unique challenges due to Canada’s strict entry requirements. Understanding these regulations is crucial for anyone with a criminal history in the United States wishing to enter Canada. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the legal framework governing entry into Canada for individuals with felony convictions, including potential pathways for overcoming inadmissibility.

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Canada’s Entry Requirements and Criminal Inadmissibility

Canada evaluates the admissibility of visitors based on their criminal record, among other factors. Under Canadian immigration law, a person with a felony conviction in the United States may be deemed criminally inadmissible.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), Section 36: “A foreign national is inadmissible for having been convicted of an act outside Canada that would constitute an offense under an Act of Parliament punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years, or of an offense of committing such an act.”

This means that if your offense in the U.S. has an equivalent under Canadian law that carries a potential sentence of 10 years or more, you could be denied entry.

Overcoming Criminal Inadmissibility

There are several options for overcoming criminal inadmissibility to Canada:

Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)

A TRP allows individuals who are otherwise inadmissible to enter Canada for a specific period. The issuance of a TRP is at the discretion of Canadian immigration officials and requires demonstrating a significant reason for your visit.

Criminal Rehabilitation

Criminal rehabilitation is a permanent solution to overcoming inadmissibility. To be eligible, at least five years must have passed since the completion of your sentence, including probation. An application for criminal rehabilitation must provide compelling evidence of your reformed character and the unlikelihood of future criminal activity.

Application Process: “The criminal rehabilitation application involves submitting detailed documentation, including criminal record information, character references, and a personal statement, to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).”

Deemed Rehabilitation

In some cases, individuals may be deemed rehabilitated if more than ten years have passed since the completion of their sentence for a single offense that would be punishable in Canada by a term of imprisonment of less than 10 years. Deemed rehabilitation is automatically applied under certain conditions, without the need for a formal application.

Preparing for Border Crossing

If you plan to travel to Canada with a felony conviction:

  1. Assess your inadmissibility: Consult with a legal expert specializing in Canadian immigration law to understand your specific situation.
  2. Gather documentation: Compile all relevant documents related to your conviction and any efforts towards rehabilitation.
  3. Consider applying for a TRP or criminal rehabilitation: Depending on the timing and nature of your conviction, these may be viable options for you.


Traveling to Canada with a felony conviction requires careful preparation and an understanding of Canadian immigration policies regarding criminal inadmissibility. Whether through a Temporary Resident Permit, criminal rehabilitation, or being deemed rehabilitated, pathways exist to overcome inadmissibility, though the process can be complex and time-consuming.


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