Work In Canada: Overcoming Criminal Inadmissibility

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Canada immigration news: Criminal ineligibility restrictions will still continue to be a challenge for many prospective immigrants despite Canada’s on-going investment in a new $428.9-million digital platform that promises beefed up security.

Under that five-year project, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will gradually replace its legacy Global Case Management System. 

That’s being touted as a way to improve Canadian immigration application processing times, provide more support for applicants and extra security measures by as early as next year.


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But despite that emphasis on greater security, Canada’s new digital platform will change little in the way prospective immigrants have to demonstrate they are not a threat to Canada’s national security due to previous criminal convictions.

Criminal Record Can Keep Foreign Nationals Out of Canada

“The new system is being designed to provide an enhanced client experience with a digital interface that will continue to maintain the security of client information, to limit downtime for upgrades, and to improve IRCC’s flexibility in responding to emerging global migration needs,” said IRCC media relations official Rémi Larivière

“The new system will not change the need for every person who applies to immigrate or to come temporarily to Canada to meet the admissibility requirements set out by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). Under IRPA, some people are not allowed to enter Canada as they are considered inadmissible.”


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Among the reasons a foreign national can be considered inadmissible to Canada because they:

  • are deemed to pose a security risk;
  • have violated human or international rights;
  • were convicted of a crime;
  • have committed an act outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an offence under an act of Parliament, or;
  • have ties to organized crime.

Canadian immigration officials work with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in the screening of applicants who may be deemed criminally inadmissible to Canada.

That’s good news for Canadians who want their government to protect them from threats to public safety.

Passage of Time Can Allow Those With Criminal Records to Be Deemed Rehabilitated

It’s often bad news, though, for foreign nationals who want to immigrate to Canada but whose criminal record is less than stellar due to unfortunate incidents which happened a long time ago. While they no longer pose any sort of threat to public safety, their criminal records are tainted.

In Canada, there are two main kinds of criminal inadmissibility that can see a foreign national immediately deported and refused re-entry into the country.

The two categories are involved in either:

The criminal inadmissibility of foreign nationals who want to come to Canada depends on whether or not they were charged, or they were discharged or pardoned for the crimes committed.

When the charges have been withdrawn or dismissed the foreign national is still admissible to Canada if the crime occurred in this country.

Even if convicted of a crime, a foreign national who received either an absolute or conditional discharge will still be admissible to Canada if the crime occurred in Canada and maybe inadmissible to the country if the crime occurred outside of Canada. 

Likewise, a pardon granted for a crime that occurred in Canada under the Criminal Records Act essential wipes out its relevance with regards to criminal admissibility. But that might not be the case if the crime occurred outside of Canada.

Teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 who committed crimes are admissible to Canada when:

  • they were convicted in Canada under the Young Offenders Act or the Youth Criminal Justice Act and did not receive an adult jail term;
  • they were convicted as a young offender in a country that has special laws for young offenders, or;
  • they were convicted in a country that does not have special laws for young offenders but the circumstances of their convictions were such that they would have been tried as a young offender in Canada.

But those teens would not be admissible to Canada in cases ere they were convicted:

  • in an adult court in a country that has special laws for young offenders, or;
  • in a country that does not have special provisions for young offenders but the circumstances of their convictions were such that they would have been tried as adults in Canada.

There are ways, though, for those with a less-than-squeaky-clean criminal record to overcome that hurdle and, in many cases, still be allowed to come to Canada to work temporarily or permanently reside.

Once a foreign national has identified that he or she is indeed facing the challenge of overcoming a finding of criminal inadmissibility, the first step is to try to successfully demonstrate rehabilitation to the Canadian government.

Ottawa considers there to be two main types of rehabilitation:

  • deemed, or;
  • individual.

Legal Opinion Letters an Important Tool

When the foreign national’s criminal sentence, including probation, ended more than five years ago and he or she is deemed unlikely to commit future crimes, then Ottawa may after assessing the individual situation consider that person to have been rehabilitated and allow him or her to come to Canada.

In its assessment, Canada considers such things as the applicant’s lifestyle and their good conduct, including measures taken to ensure they will not re-offend. The fee for the application to be considered rehabilitated is either $200 for a less serious crime or $1,000 for a serious crime.

When enough time has passed since the criminal act was committed, the foreign national does not even need to apply for this kind of assessment. He or she can be considered rehabilitated for crimes with jail terms of less than 10 years – or less than five years from other crimes – if enough time has elapsed since the crime.

A good immigration lawyer can be a great asset in overcoming this hurdle of criminal ineligibility by providing a legal opinion lawyer to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) highlighting all of the relevant facts which show the foreign national has been rehabilitated. In some cases, the offence committed by the foreign national might not even be a crime in Canada. In other cases, the crime might have been an isolated incident or a lesser offence. Legal opinion letters can include all this information and are useful for both rehabilitation and temporary permit applications.

Even if the Canadian government does not accept that a foreign national is rehabilitated, he or she can still come to Canada under a temporary foreign worker visa. That can be a good route for a foreign national with a criminal record whose crime was less than five years ago. He or she can come to Canada as a temporary resident visa which allows the holder to stay in Canada for up to three years, land a job, and then apply for permanent residency once enough time has elapsed to get rehabilitation.

Under such a scenario, the IRCC will want to know why the foreign national should be let into the country despite that criminal record – and this is why a legal opinion letter can help with this process. 

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