Gaining entry to Canada after imprisonment

Jamica To Canada

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

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Dear Mr Brown,

I was incarcerated in the US for five years. I was then deported to Jamaica afterwards. I would like to know if I have to wait for a period of time to apply to visit Canada. What is the likelihood of me being successful with my visa application?

— PO

Dear PO,

I am not sure of the exact nature or location of the offence. However, you may be able to apply for a pardon or rehabilitation, depending on the circumstances.

A legal decision on inadmissibility can only be made at the time that one seeks entry into Canada, either through an application or at a port of entry. However, depending on the nature of the offence, the time elapsed, and one's behaviour since it was committed or since one was sentenced, one may no longer be considered inadmissible to Canada.

One may be considered criminally inadmissible if a person:

• Was convicted of an offence in Canada;

• Was convicted of an offence outside of Canada that is considered a crime in Canada; and/or

• Committed an act outside of Canada that is considered a crime under the laws of the country where it occurred and would be punishable under Canadian law.

You may be permitted to go to Canada if:

• You are able to satisfy an immigration officer that you meet the legal requirement to be deemed rehabilitated; or

• You have applied for rehabilitation and your application has been approved; or

• You have obtained a pardon; or

• You have obtained a temporary resident permit.

It is important to note that the outcome of an application is never guaranteed. There are factors that are considered to guide decision-makers regarding applications for rehabilitation, pardons or temporary resident permits. However, decisions dealing with immigration matters are largely discretionary, although the discretion is held to certain standards.

Deemed rehabilitated

Rehabilitation means that one is restored through leading a stable life after the conviction of a criminal offence, and is unlikely to be involved in any further criminal activity.

At least five years and as many as 10 years must have passed since the completion of an imposed sentence. Therefore, depending on the nature of the offence(s) that one has committed or been convicted of, and the passage of time after the offence, one may meet the requirements of being deemed rehabilitated.

However, in all cases, you may only be deemed rehabilitated if the offence committed would be punishable in Canada by a maximum term of imprisonment of less than 10 years. One is not required to submit an application to be deemed rehabilitated.

Application for rehabilitation

Should one not be eligible to be deemed rehabilitated, and wishes to go to Canada after committing or having been convicted of a crime, one must apply for rehabilitation to enter Canada. At least five years must have passed since the completion of criminal sentences or five years must have elapsed since the commission of a criminal act. Details of criminal history are required for visa applications.


A temporary resident permit (TRP) may allow one to enter or remain in Canada, if less than five years have passed since the end of a criminal sentence, or if justified by compelling circumstances. A TRP is a highly discretionary document that may be issued to an inadmissible person to allow them to enter or remain in Canada, where justified by exceptional circumstances.

A temporary resident permit can be granted if:

• The offence was minor, that is there is no involvement of drugs, physical violence, or damage to property;

• There are no more than two criminal convictions;

• There is no pattern of criminal behaviour;

• The individual has completed all sentences; and

• There is a high probability that the individual will successfully settle in Canada without committing further offences.

For further information visit

Antonn Brown, BA, (Hons), LLB, MSc, RCIC, is an immigration counsel, education agent and managing director of JAMAICA2CANADA.COM — a Canadian immigration and education firm in Kingston. Send questions/comments to

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