In certain cases, a conviction on drug possession charges can cause a person to be criminally inadmissible to Canada, which could result in being denied entry to the country if the proper permits and documentation are missing.
Criminal inadmissibility occurs in cases where an offense was committed that would constitute an indictable offense under Canadian law. Even if a person was convicted of a misdemeanour, there is still a possibility that the crime would be considered an indictable offense under the equivalent Canadian statute, and if the crime is an indictable offense in Canada the conviction will result in being deemed criminally inadmissible.
In the case of drug possession convictions, the seriousness of the offense and the maximum sentence, which is the determining factor in whether or not the conviction will be classified as serious or non-serious, varies greatly depending on the substance. Controlled drugs and substances are classified into schedules ranging from one to seven, where schedule one drugs (including opium, coca, methamphetamines and their derivatives) carry the heaviest penalties, and schedule seven drugs (such as cannabis in smaller quantities) carry lighter penalties. Individuals wanting to travel to Canada with a prior drug possession conviction should consult a legal expert to determine whether the substance and amount of possession are considered to be a summary, hybrid, or indictable offense in Canada and to assess potential inadmissibility.
In Canada, the possession of under 30 grams of marijuana constitutes a summary offense and does not render an individual inadmissible to Canada based on a single conviction. If a foreign national has two convictions that are deemed summary offenses in Canada, that individual will then be deemed criminally inadmissible to Canada.
After being deemed criminally inadmissible, individuals can still enter Canada through the following two strategies;
Criminal Rehabilitation is an option that individuals who are criminally inadmissible can apply for, and after an individual has received criminal rehabilitation their slate will be wiped clean and they will be able to travel freely to Canada without inadmissibility issues. Criminal Rehabilitation is only an option in cases where 5 years have elapsed since the completion of the entirety of the sentence for the charge, including all terms of probation if it was a part of the sentence.
Criminal Rehabilitation is always be necessary if the offense a person was convicted of is considered to be “serious offense,” as offenses with a maximum prison sentence of ten years or more are, because individuals who have been convicted of a serious offense will never be Deemed Rehabilitated based on the passage of time.
Depending on the amount of time that has passed since the completion of the entire sentence for the offense, there is also a possibility that the person has been deemed rehabilitated, in which case a Criminal Rehabilitation or Temporary Resident Permit Application would not be necessary as the inadmissibility would be removed. Deemed Rehabilitation is a possibility if more than 10 years have passed since the entire sentence for the conviction was completed and only applies in cases where there was only one single charge and the offense is defined as “non-serious,” as with most possession charges barring possession with an intent to distribute. Although individuals who have been deemed rehabilitated are admissible to Canada, presenting a legal opinion letter to immigration officials upon entry to Canada confirming their admissibility is recommended.
Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)
Applying for a Temporary Resident Permit is a legal avenue that could allow a person to be granted temporary entry into Canada for a specific reason. Unlike Criminal Rehabilitation, a TRP is only a temporary solution for entry into the country and the criminal inadmissibility will not be permanently lifted. To qualify for a TRP, an applicant has to explain the specific purpose of their visit to Canada and the reason why entering Canada is necessary for the set amount of time. Common reasons used to apply for TRPs include explanations based on family, work, or emergency situations.
If fewer than 5 years have passed since the sentence was completed, a TRP will be necessary to enter Canada as the person is not yet eligible for Criminal Rehabilitation. Temporary Resident Permits are also commonly applied for jointly with a Criminal Rehabilitation application, in cases where an individual needs to enter Canada before their Criminal Rehabilitation application has been processed or received a positive answer from the Canadian government. A TRP does not allow a person to begin any permanent residency processes, and is used solely for temporary visits to Canada, for reasons of work, study, or criminal inadmissibility reasons.
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