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A foreign national who has committed or who has been convicted of a crime may be found inadmissible to Canada. Crimes include any offence that is found in the Criminal Code of Canada and include theft, assault, dangerous driving, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI or DWI), or possession of drugs.

Depending on the crime, and depending on when the foreign national completed the sentencing, there may be options available to them that will allow them to enter Canada. These options include applying for:

  1. A temporary resident permit
  2. Deemed rehabilitation
  3. Rehabilitation
  4. Record suspension or discharge (formerly known as a “pardon”)

Temporary Resident Permit

A temporary resident permit is issued to those who can demonstrate that they have a valid reason to be in Canada. A temporary resident permit can be issued for:

  • A short duration, for example if a foreign national needs to travel to Canada for a short business trip or to attend a funeral of a close family member; or 
  • A longer time period, normally in conjunction with a work or study authorization.

A temporary resident permit can be issued to a foreign national to either enter Canada, or to a foreign national who is already in Canada and who is, or has become inadmissible. A temporary resident permit can be issued to a foreign national if they demonstrate:

  • That it has been less than five years since the completion of their sentence; OR
  • They have a valid reason to be in Canada.

In coming to their decision in allowing a foreign national to enter or remain in Canada, an officer will examine if the need of the foreign national to be in Canada outweighs any potential risk (health or safety) to the Canadian society.

Deemed Rehabilitation

A foreign national who has been convicted of a crime committed outside of Canada, where the equivalency of the crime in Canada has a maximum prison term of less than 10 years, may be eligible for deemed rehabilitation.

When examining if a foreign national is eligible for deemed rehabilitation, an Officer will examine:

  • If the crime that was committed, if committed in Canada it would be punishable by a maximum prison term of less than 10 years;
  • The seriousness of the crime that was committed;
  • If sufficient time has elapsed since the foreign national completed their sentence:
    • For an indictable offence – more than 10 years must have passed;
    • For two or more summary convictions – more than 5 years must have passed; and
  • If more than one crime was committed.

Generally if multiple crimes were committed, an Officer is less likely to make a finding that a foreign national is deemed rehabilitated. Also, a foreign national is not eligible for deemed rehabilitation if they have committed more than one indictable offence.

If a foreign national has been found to be deemed rehabilitated, the criminal inadmissibility is removed, and the foreign national is allowed to enter Canada, or can be granted permanent resident status. 

To be assessed for deemed rehabilitation, a foreign national would normally apply at the Visa Office responsible for their region. However, American citizens and those who live in the United States can apply at the port-of-entry. Foreign nationals who do not require a visa to enter Canada may also apply at the port of entry; however there is a greater risk of refusal to process the application. If at the port of entry the application for deemed rehabilitation is denied, a foreign national will be invited to apply for rehabilitation at the Visa Office. 


Rehabilitation removes the criminal inadmissibility and will allow a foreign national to enter or to be granted permanent resident status in Canada. A foreign national may apply for rehabilitation if they are able to demonstrate: 

  • That more than five years have passed:
    • If committed an act outside Canada, since the commission of that act;
    • If convicted outside of Canada, since the end of the criminal sentence that was imposed;
  • That they are rehabilitated; and
  • That they are unlikely to commit any further crimes.

In determine if a foreign national is rehabilitated, an Officer will examine:

  • The reasons for the foreign national’s visit or stay in Canada;
  • The nature of the crimes committed;
  • The foreign national’s employment and training history;
  • The foreign national’s contributions to their community;
  • The foreign national’s remorsefulness for their past actions;
  • What actions the foreign national has taken to educate themselves; 
  • If the foreign national has compensated his victim(s); and
  • If the foreign national is no longer a risk for public safety.

An Officer will use their discretion when deciding whether or not to grant a positive decision on a rehabilitation application. The Officer will also weigh the need of the foreign national coming to Canada, with the risk for public safety.

Record Suspension or Discharge

A record suspension or discharge is most commonly known under its former name, a pardon. A record suspension or discharge is available to those foreign nationals who committed a crime in Canada. If a foreign national obtains a Canadian record suspension or discharge, they will no longer be considered inadmissible to Canada.

If a foreign national has obtained the equivalent of a record suspension or discharge in another country, that record suspension or discharge may not automatically be recognized in Canada. One must contact the Visa Office responsible for their region to determine if the record suspension or discharge is recognized in Canada.