Inadmissibility: How to transit through Canada

Posted September 20, 2022 at 9:00 am EDT

  • criminal inadmissibility, criminal rehabilitation, inadmissibility, legal opinion letter, Temporary resident permit, transit

Woman looks at board at the airport

If you are a foreign citizen who has been arrested or convicted of a criminal offense, you are barred from entering Canada as a criminal. Even if you’re just transiting through Canada and not planning to stay in the country, a criminal inadmissibility can pose problems for travelers.

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When a traveler flies through Canada and catches a connecting flight, they often have to go through Canadian Customs. In the eyes of Canadian border authorities, there is no difference between entering Canada for residence and entering Canada for transit to another country. Therefore, being criminally barred from entering Canada, whether or not you are in Canada, can be problematic.

Ways to overcome inadmissibility for the purpose of transit through Canada

Luckily, solutions are available to you as long as you prepare ahead of time for your trip.

There are three main routes for those who will be traveling through Canada to overcome criminal inadmissibility:

  • Apply for a temporary residence permit
  • Submit an application for penal rehabilitation
  • legal opinion

Application for a temporary residence permit

A Temporary Residency Permit (TRP) is an option for a person who is considered criminally ineligible as it allows temporary access to Canada for a specified period of time. A TRP is used in situations where a traveler has a valid reason for entering Canada and the benefits of their entry outweigh any risks to Canadian society.

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A TRP application can be granted for up to three years, depending on the reason for entry. A person can apply for a TRP at any time and does not require the enforcement of a criminal conviction.

Application for penal rehabilitation

The Canadian government offers the opportunity to apply for criminal rehabilitation to permanently erase your criminal record for purposes of entry into Canada. The application for criminal rehabilitation is a one-time solution that does not require an extension. Upon receipt of authorization for criminal rehabilitation, an individual is no longer considered inadmissible and no longer requires a TRP to enter Canada.

To be eligible for criminal rehabilitation, you must meet the following criteria:

  • must have committed an act outside of Canada which amounts to a criminal offense under the Canadian Criminal Code,
  • must have been convicted of the offense or admitted to commission, and
  • five years must have elapsed since the sentence was carried out. These include prison terms, fines, community service, or probation.

The primary requirement is to determine and understand the relevant offense in Canada. Under the Canadian Criminal Code, the type and severity of the offense is important, as Canadian immigration authorities characterize offenses on the basis of felony and non-felony.

legal opinion

The legal opinion will explain the consequences of a conviction for Canadian immigration purposes, including a legal analysis of your case and how it fits into the context of Canadian law. The letter cannot overrule criminal ineligibility, but it may explain why you are not inadmissible in the first place.

The letter may be submitted with a TRP application or a criminal rehabilitation application. It can also be filed if you have been convicted of a crime but charges are pending.

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