No. Any US Citizen or permanent resident with a felony conviction on their criminal record will be considered inadmissible to Canada even if they are just visiting or immigrating to the country. Most often, people with felony convictions may never be granted permission to enter or visit Canada, and risk being denied entry to the country even after several years post-conviction.

Canadian immigration officers have full access to all the criminal record databases in the United States, therefore any individual convicted of a felony would be halted on their way into Canada. When it comes to the Canadian border, have it in mind that there is no assumption of innocence after a criminal arrest or charge unless a visitor can show that there is zero chance they have been convicted of the offense.

Unless the visitor shows proof of a favorable settlement or “no conviction” result, the Canadian border will deny them entry. While involved in a diversion, probation before judgment, deferral, or other conditional discharge programs, an American is still criminally inadmissible to Canada because they could potentially have a probation violation and end up convicted of the offense.

In entering Canada, every visitor is expected to first contend with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The CBSA reserves the right to determine if a person is liable to enter Canada. Note that no one besides Canadians has the express right to enter Canada, however, most people are allowed to enter the country if they have no criminal record.

As long as there is nothing inauspicious, CBSA will admit the applicant, sometimes in a few minutes. In denying you entry, the CBSA officer will be leveraging on his or her knowledge of the Immigration Act. Have it in mind that this act denies entry to those convicted of driving while under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). DUI or DWI remains a felony in Canada.

In Canadian terms, it is an indictable offense that may be punished by a term of imprisonment of up to five years. Also, note that the Immigration Act specifically restricts felons from entering Canada. Other offenses that can ensure a person doesn’t get into Canada include reckless driving, misdemeanor drug possession, any type of felony, domestic violence, and shoplifting.

Options to Consider If You Have Been Denied Entry to Canada Because of a Felony

Note that options available to you will often depend on the crime and how long it has been since that crime was committed. However, you may be allowed to re-enter by:

  1. Being Deemed Rehabilitated

This is the first option for felons seeking to enter or visit Canada. Note that you can be “deemed rehabilitated” if enough time has passed since your conviction, or if each of the conditions associated with your sentence has been met. According to reports, the standard amount of time is 10 years.

Therefore, if it has been 10 years or more since you committed a crime or completed a sentence for a crime, you may be allowed to enter Canada. This can be quite risky because you won’t know if you will be allowed entry until you reach the border; and again, a customs agent will be tasked with deciding if you meet the requirements to enter Canada. Note that when deciding, the agent may consider:

  • The type of crime committed
  • If you have committed more than one crime
  • The stability of your life: if you are employed, if you have family commitments
  • Whether you are likely to commit another crime
  1. Applying for a Determination of Individual Rehabilitation

Individual Rehabilitation is a process that allows you to get a formal decision. This gives you assurance about your ability to pass the border before you get there. If you have been convicted of a felony charge in a foreign country and enough time has passed (i.e. more than five years) since you completed your sentence, you are eligible to apply for individual rehabilitation in Canada.

Note that if your application is successful and you are “deemed rehabilitated,” you will get a certificate of rehabilitation and be given permission to cross the border freely. In Canada, a certificate of rehabilitation is a permanent document that will allow you to enter Canada at any point in the future.

As long as an applicant is approved for criminal rehabilitation, they won’t need a temporary resident permit. However, note that the most vital consideration of the application is establishing the equivalent offense in Canada for your criminal rehabilitation.

Most often, the government of Canada differentiates between convictions warranting a sentence of fewer than 10 years, and convictions with a sentence of more than 10 years, the latter is regarded as “serious criminality.” Also, note that felons seeking individual rehabilitation are subject to extensive scrutiny during the review process of an application.

Individuals convicted of a crime that would warrant a prison sentence of 10 years or more in Canada tend to fall within the category of serious criminality. Individuals with serious criminality will have to apply for criminal rehabilitation to enter Canada, regardless of how much time has gone since completing their sentence. Processing times range from 6 to 12 months.

  1. Getting a Pardon or Discharge

In a situation where the state or country where the individual was convicted “pardons or discharges” your crime, the government of Canada may allow you entry into the country. However, you should check to see if Canada will accept the pardon. You can consult the Canadian Citizenship and Immigration office (CIC) closest to you.

  1. Obtaining a Temporary Resident Permit

When justified by compelling circumstances, note that a temporary residency permit may be given to individuals who would otherwise be inadmissible to Canada since they were convicted of a crime. A Canadian TRP gives felons the right to enter Canada for a specific period and can be applied for at any point.

Unlike individual rehabilitation, a TRP is not subject to a certain time frame in relation to the completion of the sentence, and this entails that an individual can be given a TRP even when they are still serving a portion of their sentence.

However, note that for individuals who have been convicted of a serious offense, such as a felony, the chances of getting a TRP can be massively low, especially while still serving a sentence. To apply for a TRP, you only have to apply with the necessary documents noting the reason for your criminal inadmissibility and why your entry into Canada may be justified.

In a situation where a serious crime dents your records, you may be asked to make available additional information to satisfy the Canadian Government. Once you or your immigration lawyer has put together all the necessary Canadian immigration documents to complete a TRP application, you will be expected to then submit it to the Canadian government for analysis.

While applying for a TRP via a Canadian consulate comes with extensive processing time (3-6 months), it is, without doubt, the best approach to submitting temporary resident permit applications to Canadian immigration authorities. Have it in mind that a decision will be reached by an experienced immigration officer who understands why your entry may or may not be justified.


Canada has strict rules when it comes to admitting people with criminal records. If you have been convicted of an offense that happened less than 10 years ago, most often, you are considered inadmissible to Canada. However, if you still wish to visit Canada, you need to consider the four options mentioned above.

Note that the best way to know whether your conviction will restrain you from getting into Canada is to speak with an immigration professional such as a lawyer. Note that the lawyer will carry out an “equivalency analysis” to understand if your offense in your home country will prevent you from entering Canada.